14 June 2022
PINE ISLAND, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota’s health department has temporary control of a southern Minnesota nursing home struggling to pay its bills, which the state said puts residents at risk.
A Ramsey County judge on Friday granted the Minnesota Department of Health receivership of Pine Haven Care Center in Pine Island, a move that gives regulators control of the operation. Court documents detail a pattern of failing to pay for food, medication, employee wages and health insurance at the nursing home, which has 52 residents.
The unpaid debts total hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to court documents detailing the MDH investigation into the site.
“This rare step is one we do not take lightly, but the evidence indicated a need for immediate action to ensure that residents are safe and continue to receive essential services,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm.
The health department, which licenses and regulates nursing homes, received a complaint about the facility, leading to an investigation.
Its findings, according to the petition, led the state agency to believe that due to its financial woes, Pine Haven would “soon have difficulties retaining its current staff” and if staff left, “it would present an immediate and serious threat to the residents’ health and safety” because no one would be there to care for them.
Marcus Parence, the president of Pine Haven, did not respond to a request for comment. The nursing home received four stars in the previous three years for its state inspection results, according to the state nursing home report card. But it received just one star in the most recent state inspection, which happens quarterly.
The state entered an agreement with Pathway Health to run the daily operations going forward.
“They’re doing a deep dive looking at the financial situation, and also looking at any other areas that might need some additional oversight,” said Maria King, the director of the regulation division at MDH.
Pine Haven had unpaid bills exceeding $103,000 to a pharmacy for resident medication, an invoice obtained by MDH and including in court filings showed, prompting the vendor to stop sending deliveries to the facility. A staffing agency said it stopped working with the facility after it failed to pay bills totaling $156,000.
Nursing homes are required by law to pay a license surcharge based on the number of licensed beds they have; An employee of the Minnesota Department of Human Services said in a sworn statement that Pine Haven had a tab of $370,153.48 in past due surcharge amounts, including penalties and interest.
Patti Cullen, president and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota, whose membership includes Pine Haven Care Center and other nursing homes, said this receivership illustrates a broader problem of a long-term care industry in crisis, unable to afford its costs.
She said others could be at risk of closing on their own or being turned over to the state, noting five nursing homes had shuttered in the last few months.
“We have providers on the brink of disaster,” Cullen said. “We know based on a recent survey that there’s going to be more buildings in this particular situation coming down the pike very soon.”
Pine Haven had notified Care Providers of Minnesota of the problems it was facing and the organization directed them to the state, Cullen said.
“It isn’t a surprise. We knew they were struggling,” she said. “I guess we just didn’t know that they had no other avenues at all.”
Cullen and other industry leaders pressed the Minnesota Legislature to increase provider payment rates and pass other provisions to help the long-term care industry, but negotiations on a large budget proposal for health and human services crumbled before session ended.
LeadingAge Minnesota estimates there are 23,000 open positions in long-term care and 450 sites at risk of closure. That puts 14,000 seniors at risk of losing access to care, the group believes.
Last fall, the state took over Twin City Gardens Nursing Home in Minneapolis for similar reasons. That facility ultimately closed in January. Overall, receiverships are rare, MDH said.