The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting that Harmony Healthcare Nursing Home, which had its doors shut in 2011, was opened and operated by two men convicted of Medicaid fraud in New York in 1979. The nursing home was closed amid findings of widespread immediate jeopardy to its residents.
An investigation conducted by the newspaper found that criminal background checks were not properly completed for the two owners–possibly because the wives of the two men, Benjamin Gelbtuch and Neil Ellman, were listed as the property owners. Paperwork on file for the home shows the two being intimately involved, however. In fact, Gelbtuch signed for and procured the loan that the partners used to open the property. The Herald-Tribune investigation also found that Gelbtuch and Ellman were running the same type of Medicaid-reliant home that they defrauded back in 1979.
The report details numerous nursing home violations, from widespread improper maintenance and administration of medication to the choking and subsequent death of an elderly resident who was improperly fed a cookie while respirating through a breathing tube. Certainly there were other serious violations in addition to these, as the article notes that Harmony Healthcare failed eleven inspections, as well as the finding of widespread immediate jeopardy.
This case in Florida highlights one of the issues that abounds in nursing home abuse cases: a post hoc punitive system rather than preventative measures taken before abuse has the opportunity to occur. Had proper diligence been taken, perhaps the criminal records of the two primary owners of this facility would have been revealed, and the situation could have been prevented before these widespread violations took root. In addition to punishing violators for their transgressions, government agencies granting licenses to nursing home facilities should look to ensure that facilities are opened with the proper motives and by individuals willing and able to run care facilities according to state and federal guidelines.
The full story, including details of the criminal histories of Gelbtuch and Ellman, can be found here in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune story.