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Owner of Sodus nursing home facing new set of regulators

April 16, 2019 08:12 PM

SODUS, N.Y. (WHEC) -- The company that owns a nursing home at the center of a News10NBC investigation is now facing a new set of regulators.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have put Personal Healthcare LLC on its watch-list.

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Personal Healthcare LLC owns Sodus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. As News10NBC has been reporting, the NYS Health Department has issued dozens of health and safety violations against the facility over the past few years but it's a nursing home in Utica that the company owns that now has the attention of CMS. 

Ephraim Zagelbaum is the CEO of Personal Healthcare LLC. 

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke tracked him down in Westchester County last fall to speak with him about the care and conditions inside Sodus Rehab. He refused to answer any questions and called the police.

Inspection records show the situation at another nursing home owned by subsidiaries of Personal Healthcare LLC is worse.

Last month, Utica Rehabilitation and Nursing Center was designated as a "Special Focus Facility" by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

In a statement, Renia Becnel, a spokeswoman for CMS says, "Each month, CMS identifies nursing facilities that are among the facilities providing the poorest care to their residents, as determined by federal deficiencies cited in the prior three years."

Being on the list means more inspections, higher penalties and the risk of losing Medicaid and Medicare funding if care doesn't improve.    

But while Utica Rehab has had 76 health and safety violations over the past four years compared to the statewide average of 33, Sodus Rehab has had 90.

So, why was Utica put on the list over Sodus?

It appears to come down to the number of life or death situations. Utica has had six citations for actual harm or immediate jeopardy in the past four years. Sodus got its first one last month. 

Still, the question remains: do residents and families have to wait until more people are actually harmed for Sodus to be added to the list? 

Becnel says, "Because this additional oversight and monitoring is resource-intensive, each state is limited to a specified number of nursing homes to be designated as a SFF.  In New York state, there is a limit of three and New York currently has three facilities monitored in the SFF program."

When asked whether Sodus will be considered, "The New York State Department of Health and CMS will consider new candidates when the opportunity to select another candidate occurs. The facility will be vetted against other candidates for inclusion," Becnel says. 

News10NBC attempted to reach Zagelbaum on Tuesday. He did not return our messages.

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