The family of an 84-year-old woman who died in a Brius nursing home is suing the company, claiming that it intentionally understaffed the facility to cut costs.
The Eureka Times-Standard reported last week that 84-year-old Ida Branch died five days after being admitted to the Pacific Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Eureka following a surgical procedure on her leg.
Branch’s relatives arrived at the facility to find her “barely alive … with significant changes in her mental status and breathing,” according to the lawsuit. “By then, the facility had still not provided (her) the breathing tube requested by her family every day since admission.”
Branch died later that night, according to the lawsuit, which also lists Brius owner Shlomo Rechnitz and Brius’ management company, Rockport Healthcare Services, as defendants.
Brius closed Pacific Rehabilitation and Wellness Center earlier this year, amid reports that the facility suffered from significant structural problems that would have required expensive upgrades.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of several wrongful death claims against Brius in Humboldt, including one case in which Brius settled a claim that that one of its homes was accused of dumping a blind man suffering from dementia in a local hotel with nothing to eat except a half-gallon of milk, instant noodles and Velveeta cheese.
Branch is being represented by the law firm of Garcia, Artigliere & Medby, which filed a lawsuit earlier this year against another Brius home in Eureka. alleging that the Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center failed to prevent falls by a patient who suffered severe injuries from her falls.
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It’s hard to explain how a nursing home operator — even the largest one in California — has the money to buy a $3.6 million luxury jet. But the attorney for Brius Healthcare CEO Shlomo Rechnitz pulled out every stop to obfuscate the potentially damning connections between Rechnitz’s operation of the jet and his repeated failure to meet basic standards of care.
In a statement given to McKnight’s Long Term Care News, the unnamed attorney for Rechnitz said that the jet is owned by SR Administrative Services, “a company owned by Rechnitz but unrelated to his healthcare operations.”
What the lawyer didn’t say is that Rechnitz leased the jet to another one of his estimated 150 subsidiary companies: SR Capital. And there is documented proof that SR Capital is not only related to his healthcare operations — it collects interest payments from his nursing homes that in 2015 amounted to more than $1.5 million.
Click here for the paper trail of one Rechnitz-controlled nursing home making an interest payment to SR Capital.
The North Coast Journal also reported on a Rechnitz-controlled nursing home in Eureka, Calif. paying SR Capital $47,663 in 2015.
For more data on Rechnitz’s jet and a copy of the NUHW report, click here.
Less than a year before California Attorney General Kamala Harris labeled him a “serial violator” of nursing home laws, Shlomo Rechnitz made a purchase that further called into question his commitment to provide proper skilled nursing care.
Rechnitz, whose firm Brius Healthcare is California’s largest nursing home operator, spent approximately $3.6 million on a luxury jet in 2013, which he operates through a subsidiary that receives direct payments from his nursing homes. Over the following three years, that plane circled the globe more than 20 times, while Rechnitz racked up nearly 400 patient care violations and threatened to evict nearly 200 elderly patients claiming his homes were losing money.
Revelations about Rechnitz’s Gulfstream G-IV – including its flights to international destinations like Brazil, Portugal, and Israel – are contained in a report issued this week by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). The details come from previously unpublished records obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration and other government agencies.
Altogether, Rechnitz has spent an estimated $8 million to purchase and operate the jet.
Rechnitz’s spending habits should concern all Californians because he controls one out of every 14 nursing home beds in the state. And there is ample evidence that he is not spending enough to properly care for residents.
A Sacramento Bee investigation found that in 2014 Rechnitz’s homes were “tagged with nearly triple as many serious deficiencies per 1,000 beds as the statewide average.” One of his Los Angeles homes has been cited in connection with three separate resident deaths since 2009.
In July 2016, the California Department of Public Health blocked Brius from obtaining licenses to operate five nursing homes due to the company’s widespread violations of California’s patient-care laws. Harris labeled Rechnitz “a serial violator” in an emergency motion seeking to block it from buying 19 nursing homes three years ago. And the federal government barred three Brius nursing homes from treating Medicare patients due to severe violations of federal standards.
The report on Rechnitz’ private jet comes on the heels of recent articles raising questions as to whether he is siphoning money out of his nursing homes. The North Coast Journal reported that Rechnitz’ nursing homes in Humboldt County appear to pay inflated rent to companies that he controls and that over the course of two years they paid $117,000 more to Rechnitz’s medical supply firm for “routine supplies” even though their admissions dropped 30 percent.
NUHW’s report – entitled “Misplaced Priorities at 40,000 Feet” – includes recommendations for policymakers and the public, as well as links to more than 100 pages of source documents obtained from government agencies.
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