A troubled Mount Laurel nursing home, which faced a rare involuntary termination of its Medicare agreement on June 16, will remain open while a new owner seeks certification under health programs for the elderly and the poor.
The buyer, Marquis Health Services, based in Brick, N.J., said it learned Monday that patients will be allowed to stay in Mount Laurel Center's 220-bed facility if they choose, though when Marquis takes over it won't be paid by Medicare and Medicaid until the facility is certified again.
"We are heartened by this development," Marquis chief executive Norman Rokeach said in a statement Wednesday. "We will be working closely with state and federal regulatory agencies to address their concerns as we move toward recertification, and into the future."
The certification process can take more than six months, though it could be expedited in a case like this, an industry expert said. A spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said certification depends on how long it takes a facility to fulfill Medicare requirements.
CMS rarely involuntarily terminates a nursing home's Medicare agreement, as it did with Mount Laurel. It happened only seven times last year and 17 times in 2015, CMS said. There are about 15,600 nursing homes in the country with Medicare agreements.
It's not clear when the transition to new ownership will occur. Rokeach said Marquis looks forward to assuming the operation of Mount Laurel Center "in the near term, once the New Jersey Department of Health approves the ownership change."
The Health Department has been monitoring the facility daily since residents started moving out. About 80 have moved out, and 50 to 60 remain, the state said.
Marquis already owns Kearsley Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Philadelphia and 15 other facilities across five states.
Under the previous operator, Centers Health Care, of Bronx, N.Y., Mount Laurel Center spent 19 months on a list of the nation's most troubled facilities without showing improvement. Centers Health Care said it had a consulting agreement with Mount Laurel Center, which was listed on the company's website until recently as one of its facilities.
Regulators list Daryl Hagler as the owner of Mount Laurel Center. Hagler is also listed as the owner of facilities in Hammonton and Deptford; Centers Health Care includes those sites on its website. Hagler isn't an owner of Centers Health Care, a spokesman for the company said.
After years of being cited for severe deficiencies during state inspections, Mount Laurel Center in January received a six-month deadline to improve its operations or lose its provider agreement. The clock started ticking Dec. 5, according to a letter from the state Health Department.
Among the serious problems cited in an inspection report dated Dec. 16 were the improper treatment of a resident who spoke of committing suicide and the lack of interventions to deal with a patient who was able to remove a tracheostomy tube even while wearing mittens designed to prevent that.