MOUNT LAUREL — More than 130 residents of the Mount Laurel Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center were transferred to other facilities this week after its provider agreement with Medicare and Medicaid was terminated because of poor conditions.
Residents and their families were sent a letter May 30 that the Church Road facility could no longer accept payment through Medicare and Medicaid as of Friday, as ordered by the federal Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The facility closed Friday. It had 220 beds and offered various services that include palliative care and physical and occupational therapy.
The center is in the process of changing over to prospective new owners, Marquis Health Services, according to the letter. Centers Health Care, the facility's parent company, declined to comment on whether the center was being sold. The company operated the Mount Laurel center since 2011.
“Centers Health Care is working with each resident to transition them to an alternative facility,” spokesman Jeff Jacomowitz said.
Employees will not be transferred to other facilities, he said.
The Mount Laurel Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center is listed on the federal Medicare website as a special focus facility, a designation given to nursing and rehabilitation centers with a history of persistent poor quality of care.
Multiple health inspections over the past year revealed various safety issues, including failure to report physical altercations between residents; unclean and unsanitary living environments; inadequate intervention for a suicidal resident; insufficient training for staff; and failure to investigate and report sexual abuse and harassment between residents.
Brenda Leese, whose husband has been a resident at the facility since 2014, said he had an overall positive experience. But the Collingswood resident added that she was displeased with the way management treated the staff.
“The employees are very dedicated,” Leese said. “I think at times the communication between management and employees and management and families was holding back progress.”
The employees were not notified about the closing until after the residents had received word, she said. In some cases, employees were told by residents themselves.
Leese’s husband has dementia and is in hospice. He was transferred to a facility in Cherry Hill on Wednesday.
“My husband is not able to process all this,” she said. “It’s better to be oblivious.”
Leese said 10 residents per day were moving out in the week leading up to the closure. It was hoped the new owners would let the residents stay for free during the transition, as the new company would most likely accept Medicare and Medicaid, she said.
Some residents needed to relocate to centers farther away because of bed shortages.
“Their lives have been strained as a result,” she said.
Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, has been working with the New Jersey Department of Health to ensure residents are accommodated as best as possible. The department is overseeing the transition.
“I want to make sure residents are not collateral damage because we had a bad operator,” Singleton said.
The letter sent to residents did not specify when the facility would reopen under new ownership.
The center was included on a federal list of facilities still in need of improvement at the beginning of the year.
Federal health officials visit nursing homes periodically to determine if they are providing the quality of care the Medicare and Medicaid programs require, according to documents from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Those facilities deemed to have more serious problems that persist over time are placed on a special focus initiative list and subjected to more frequent inspections — every six months — and possibly fines or termination from Medicare and Medicaid if there isn't improvement.
The Mount Laurel center has been on the list for 14 months as of February, and in a January report was listed among facilities that have not improved. It remained on the list until Friday's closing.
About 50 percent of nursing homes in the program significantly improve their quality of care within 24-30 months after being placed on the list, while about 16 percent are terminated from Medicare and Medicaid, the federal agency said.