On September 28, 2016, the Department of Public Health (DPH) gave unconditional written approval to Rockport Healthcare Services to implement its revised closure and relocation plans for Seaview, Pacific and Eureka Rehabilitation & Wellness Centers in Eureka. These three nursing homes contain nearly 60 percent of the nursing home beds in Humboldt County and house about 190 residents. Rockport Healthcare Services is affiliated with Brius Healthcare Services, a nursing home business operated by Shlomo Rechnitz.
On the same date, DPH wrote Joe Rodrigues, the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and Suzi Fregeau, the local ombudsman coordinator, to advise them it found no basis to impose receivership on the facilities as they had recommended.
Condemnation by public officials was swift. Senator Mike McGuire issued a statement to the North Coast Journal expressing extreme disappointment and called the closure plans “devastating” and “completely irresponsible.” Local ombudsman Suzi Fregeau called the Department’s decisions “catastrophic.”
Contradicting the operator’s claims that it could not give away the facilities, the Eureka Times-Standard reported that the Partnership Health Plan of California had offered to buy and run one or more of the facilities from Rockport but that the asking price was “untenable.” The Lost Coast Outpost posted a statement from Assemblymember Jim Wood stating “Rockport remained steadfast in walking away from more than 200 vulnerable residents and their families” and describing the demand for an “unreasonably high” price as “unconscionable.”
These statements quickly triggered a very public exchange of criticism between Brius Healthcare Services and the Partnership Health Plan about who was to blame and subsequent media stories by the Lost Coast Outpost and Eureka Times-Standard on September 30, 2016.
The disgraceful actions by DPH continues its long history of aiding the interests of nursing home operators at the expense of the nursing home residents it is supposed to protect, even when residents’ lives are at stake. In authorizing the Eureka nursing homes to close and evict all of the residents, DPH is virtually condemning most of them to isolated lives far apart from their families and friends and to the likely trauma that often accompany this fate.
Most of the residents are likely to be moved to nursing homes outside of Humboldt County if the facilities close because there are few available beds in the remaining two local nursing homes. The approved closure plans identifies nursing homes within a 200-mile radius beyond the greater Eureka area, including 24 nursing homes that reportedly have available beds. These 24 nursing homes have the following characteristics:
- All but one of them are more than 100 miles from Eureka;
- Some of them are nearly 200 miles from Eureka;
- Five of them are in Oregon;
- The remaining 19 facilities are spread across 10 different northern California counties including Butte, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sonoma and Tehama Counties;
- The 24 nursing homes had a total of 214 vacancies;
- Many of the nursing homes have deplorable records; and
- 15 of the 24 nursing homes – containing 138 of the 214 available beds – currently have 1 or 2-Star ratings on Nursing Home Compare’s Five Star quality rating system.
Media Reports on the Department of Public Health’s Decisions
Brius This, Seaview That, North Coast Journal, October 6, 2016
State approves plan to shutter three Humboldt County nursing homes, Sacramento Bee, September 28, 2016
State accepts plans to close three Eureka nursing homes, Eureka Times Standard, September 28, 2016
State Approves Closure of Three Skilled Nursing Facilities, North Coast Journal, September 28, 2016
Three Skilled Nursing Homes Closing: Rockport Receives Approval from State Regulators, Lost Coast Outpost, September 30, 2016
Skilled Nursing Corporation Blames Planned Closures on Marijuana, Medi-Cal Provider, Lost Coast Outpost, September 30, 2016
Brius: Partnership must pay ‘fair share’ to keep Eureka nursing homes open, Eureka Times-Standard, September 29, 2016