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State intervenes in high number of nursing homes

The Newton Kansan - 1/4/2019

Jan. 02--PEABODY -- Kansas officials recently took control of Westview Manor of Peabody, a 45-bed facility in Marion County. It was the 22nd takeover of 2018 by state, and that is a big deal.

In an average year, the state takes legal control of one or two facilities.

"This is unprecedented in our state," said Debra Harmon Zehr, President/CEO of Leading Age Kansas. "It creates uncertainty and is very upsetting to the residents of these nursing homes, their families, the employees and the communities in which they are located."

LeadingAge Kansas is a statewide association for nonprofit long-term care and aging service providers. Members in the Harvey County area include Asbury Park, Kidron Bethel Village, Kansas Christian Home, Newton Presbyterian Manor, Wheat State Manor in Whitewater and Schowalter Villa in Hesston.

The number of skilled nursing facilities to enter into receivership -- temporary ownership by the state of Kansas -- is alarming to Zehr and her organization. It is unclear why so many nursing homes have ended up in state ownership in the past year, however, there are some ideas as to what could be driving the spike.

"It could be a myriad of factors causing these situations," said Tom Williams, President/CEO/Administrator of Asbury Park. "One major challenge has been the change in how the state of Kansas processes applications and claims for a significant revenue stream called Medicaid."

This is not the first time Williams has spoken publically about that issue -- in 2016 he told the Kansan that the state was more than $250,000 behind in payments and that had forced a policy change in the admission of new patients to Asbury Park.

They are not alone in that struggle.

"The State outsourced the Medicaid eligibility determination process three years ago, and as a result, there have been chronic problems resulting in serious delays in Medicaid determination and payment to nursing homes," Harmon Zehr said. "All of the homes in receivership are heavily dependent on Medicaid for reimbursement for the care they provide. I think it is fair to say that they have had a challenge in balancing their corporate financial priorities given the problems with cash flow."

In the case of Westview Manor, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services wrote in court papers filed this month that contractors stopped providing staff and nursing supplies to Westview over past-due balances. Inspectors found more than $240,000 in bills that were more than four months overdue. They also investigated missing narcotic drugs.

Westview Manor is run by Franklin Healthcare of Peabody, which is owned by Julie and Douglas Mittleider. Julie and Douglas Mittleider have been cited in lawsuits and fined in multiple states in connection with the conditions within nursing homes owned by companies they own or have set up.

According to LeadingAge Kansas, most of the facilities taken into receivership in 2018 have been out-of-state owned, for-profit businesses. Peabody is one of two, the other in Great Bend, owned by the same company that has been taken into receivership.

"Over the past few years, the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services has not adequately exercised their statutory authority to evaluate new out-of-state companies seeking licensure to operate in Kansas to determine if they are financially solvent enough to sustain operations and if they have a track record of quality care." Harmon Zehr said. "We are hopeful that the new Governor and her yet-to-be named KDADS Secretary will re-examine their criteria for permitting new out-of-state owned, for-profit nursing homes to operate in Kansas."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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(c)2019 The Newton Kansan, Kan.

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