Nursing Home at Center of National COVID-19 Conversation Has Skyline Connection: Report

A facility in New Jersey that made national headlines after the New York Times reported on a wave of COVID-19 deaths among its residents has a connection to the defunct Skyline Healthcare nursing home chain — a company whose spectacular collapse spurred calls for greater transparency around nursing home ownership across the country.

Louis Schwartz, formerly a vice president at Skyline, holds a 50% ownership stake in the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, NBC News reported. Andover co-owner Chaim Scheinbaum told the outlet that Schwartz was a “silent partner” in the property, which has garnered nationwide attention in the wake of a Times report that the bodies of 17 residents were stored in a small morgue meant for four.

A Times follow-up on the situation at the facility, which has seen 70 COVID-19 deaths, described a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the rapid filling of dedicated units for coronavirus patients. The largest nursing home in New Jersey, according to NBC News, the Andover property has 543 beds with 420 residents remaining as of Sunday, the Times reported.

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Skyline’s swift rise and fall made mainstream headlines across the country, after the company emerged from seemingly nowhere to control more than 100 facilities from the Northeast to the Midwest — only to collapse under the weight of unpaid bills and staffing issues.

States from Kansas to Massachusetts had to step in to clean up the issues left in Skyline’s wake, with waves of receivership actions bringing temporary operators to Skyline properties across the country, as well as some outright closures.

In response, multiple states have looked to implement stricter rules regarding the approval of nursing home ownership transfers; in essence, many states had signed off on Skyline’s acquisitions without realizing the problems that the company had already run into elsewhere.

Kansas, for instance, last year instituted a new nursing home ownership disclosure rule that requires prospective buyers to submit detailed lists of every other licensed property in which he or she has an ownership stake — in Kansas or any other state. The bidder must also supply a detailed 12-month operating budget and proof that they have the capital to see it through.

The rule applies to ownership of both nursing home operations and real estate; several other states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, have taken steps to implement similar transfer rules in the wake of Skyline’s troubles.

“I don’t know that we ever denied somebody coming into the state to operate,” Cindy Luxem, CEO of the Kansas Health Care Association, noted. “And it sounds like maybe we should have.”

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