Brius recently dropped its application to permanently operate a Chico nursing home, raising new questions about the future of two dozen additional California nursing homes that the company is running without permanent licenses.
Over the past four years, California officials have taken action to block Brius owner Shlomo Rechnitz from obtaining licenses to operate new homes, citing his company’s poor patient care record. Yet, Rechnitz, the state’s largest nursing home operator, has been able to run these facilities on an interim basis, creating a situation where more than one quarter of his roughly 80 California nursing homes are being run with provisional licenses.
The California Department of Public Health’s first action to block Brius’ rapid expansion came in 2014 when it denied the company’s application to take over Windsor Healthcare’s Riverside Convalescent Hospital in Chico. Department officials cited Brius’ history of patient care violations for its denial, but allowed Brius to continue operating the facility, now known as Riverside Point Healthcare and Wellness Centre, as Brius appealed the state’s ruling.
Last September, Brius abruptly withdrew its appeal in advance of hearings before an administrative law judge. However, instead of finding a new operator, state regulators have so far continued to allow Brius to run the facility despite a scathing report last year by federal inspectors.
The report, compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), quoted one nursing assistant employed by Brius telling inspectors that there were frequently only two nursing assistants on the overnight shift at the 99-bed facility. “Not the care I want to provide,” the caregiver said. “Feel so bad because we have their lives in our hands.”
The facility’s director of nursing reported that at one point the Chico home was staffed entirely by temporary workers from a nursing registry. Not surprisingly, the home racked up more than twice as many health citations as the California average.
Two years after state regulators denied Brius’ initial application to take over the Chico nursing home, they denied the company’s request to permanently operate five additional Windsor homes, citing that over the previous three years Brius had amassed a whopping 386 serious patient care violations.
There is also little clarity concerning the status of these five homes. Rechnitz lost his initial appeal seeking to overturn the state ruling when his attorney failed to file timely paperwork. However, an administrative law judge has allowed Brius to move forward with its appeal despite its procedural violation. The case has not yet been heard by a judge.
Rechnitz and Windsor Healthcare’s former top executive Larry Feigen are close associates who teamed up two years ago to help bankroll an unsuccessful congressional campaign by a Republican candidate in Southern California.
Among the more than 20 nursing homes that Brius currently operates without permanent licenses, a majority were acquired through bankruptcy court. In 2014, a judge awarded Brius control of 18 nursing homes formerly operated by Country Villa Health Services despite an emergency motion filed by then California Attorney General Kamala Harris seeking to block the transaction.
The California Department of Public Health has still not granted Brius licenses to operate these facilities on a permanent basis.