Inflated rents could explain Shlomo Rechnitz’s latest nursing home citations

What happens when nursing homes are chronically understaffed?

In a Humboldt County facility, one patient had to pull herself up after a fall, another sat in soiled clothes for more than a half hour, and a blind person suffered a broken arm after falling while walking unassisted to the bathroom, according to a report released this month by the California Department of Public Health.

The agency issued $160,000 in fines to Shlomo Rechnitz’s Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in connection to those – and several other — violations. And the culprit was under-staffing, according to the Eureka Times Standard, which obtained a copy of the report.

“In its review of the Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, the California Department of Public Health found that as much as three times more staff time was needed to provide adequate care for the residents. Nursing home staff also acknowledged in interviews with the state that more care providers were needed.”

Rechnitz said he’ll appeal the fines. But can he explain how he appears to be siphoning money out of the facility through a rental arrangement that allowed him to charge his nursing home a highly-inflated rent?

Before Rechnitz bought the nursing home in 2011, the previous owner paid an annual rent $333,530, according to state records.

With Rechnitz at the helm, the annual rent more than doubled to $827,751 – a 148 percent increase.

Isn’t higher rent bad for business? Not if you’re Rechnitz. That’s because instead of having his nursing home pay rent directly to the property owner, Rechnitz created another company to rent the building. Then he turned around and had that company rent it to the nursing home.

What happened to the difference between what Rechnitz’s company paid the landlord in rent, and the $827k that company received from Rechnitz’s nursing home? It certainly doesn’t appear to be going toward staffing.

In fact, state figures show that the annual number of nursing hours worked at the facility dropped from 92,158 in the year before Rechnitz bought it to 87,587 in 2015, the last year for which figures are available.