News Local/State

Local Group Raises Questions About Prospective County Nursing Home Buyer

Claudia Lennhoff and other members of Champaign County Health Care Consumers.

Members of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, with executive director Claudia Lennhoff 2nd from left, at a Wednesday news conference that raised questions about the prospective buyers of the Champaign County Nursing Home. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

The Champaign County Board votes Thursday night (May 24) on a proposal to sell the county nursing home to two companies linked to the Rothner nursing home family.

But a local group says the prospective buyers have bad records when it comes to adequate staffing and resident safety.

Claudia Lennhoff with Champaign County Health Care Consumers says state Public Health records reveal safety violations over the past few years at each of the 14 Illinois facilities owned by Extended Care Clinical LLC --- one of the firms making the offer, along with Altitude Health Services.

Lennhoff says both firms have ties to the Rothner family, notably Eric Rothner and his son, William “Avi” Rothner. The younger Rothner is the founder and president of Altitude Health Services.  Altitude and Extended Care share the same address in Evanston.

Lennhoff says the records show how understaffing at Extended Care nursing homes led to injuries and even the death of residents.

“When the staff are interviewed about what happened, overwhelmingly, they indicate that they just don’t have the capacity to follow the doctor’s orders or do what is required of them, basically because they are understaffed”, said Lennhoff.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers also points to problems at other nursing homes owned by the Rothner family in the Chicago area and northwest Indiana, as well as Tuscon, Arizona. The group cites news accounts of substandard care, and violence and abuse of residents at facilities housing both the elderly and the mentally Ill. The problems led to some Rothner facilities being denied Medicare or Medicaid payments by the federal government.

In addition, Illinois officials shut down the Rothners’ Somerset Place nursing home in Chicago, while Indiana officials shut down the family’s Northlake nursing home in Merrillville, after repeated problems.

“I think the county wants to believe that a big operator with a lot of nursing homes and a lot of experience in owning nursing homes is going to do it better”, said Lennhoff. The research doesn’t bear that out.”

Lennhoff served on a committee set up by Champaign County to review the offer to buy the nursing home. She says she visited several Extended Care nursing homes in the south Chicago suburbs, and saw evidence of under-staffing at each of them.

Lennhoff’s comments at a Wednesday news conference at the Champaign County Health Care Consumers offices in Champaign were answered by two supporters of a nursing home sale who were in attendance: County Board member Jack Anderson and local businessman Kip Pope.

Pope, who argued for the sale of the nursing home in a recent op-ed piece in the News-Gazette, said Champaign County Health Care Consumers presented the safety violations at Rothner nursing homes out of context ... and that the Champaign County Nursing Home has its own list of safety violations.

“The statistics of their nursing homes compared to our nursing home make our nursing home look far worse”, said Pope, who added he thinks the Champaign County Nursing Home is performing the best it can under difficult conditions. “I’m concerned it’s not being put in the proper perspective”.

Pope says he believes continued county ownership of the Champaign County Nursing Home could mean severe financial difficulties for both the home and other parts of county government. He says some departments are already subject to delays in purchasing, and worries that the nursing home could be forced to cut back operations or even close down entirely.

“The best way to preserve the beds that are over there”, said Pope, “is to sell to somebody who can take it over and get it out from under the burden that the county is under right now.”