JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Six Missouri nursing homes are suing the Department of Health and Senior Services after being denied licenses to operate.
The six facilities: Big Spring Care Center for Rehab & Healthcare, Buffalo Prairie Center for Rehab and Healthcare, Country Aire Retirement Center, Edgewood Manor Center for Rehab and Healthcare, Golden Years Center for Rehab and Healthcare, Marshfield Care Center for Rehab and Healthcare, along with Advantage Healthcare Management Group – filed a suit in the Cole County Circuit Court last week, saying DHSS and the Division of Regulation were shutting them down and causing a “serious health risk” to approximately 321 elderly residents.
The nursing homes are asking the court for a restraining order to keep the operating permits from being terminated until a hearing on the matter is held and the court issues an order.
The six facilities are currently licensed and operating with temporary operating permits, which are set to expire on November 30, 2017.
This all comes after a change of ownership back in March, when Advantage Healthcare took over the facilities. On Nov. 1, the Division of Regulation and Licensure notified the facilities that their applications for licenses had been denied and that when their temporary permits expired, they would no longer be able to operate.
The reasoning given for this was due to a “lack of financial capacity to operate the facility” and knowingly omitting “any duty in a manner which would materially and adversely affect the health, safety, welfare or property of a resident, in violation of Section 198.036.1(3), RSMo.”
The facilities and their new owner disagree with that decision, as the facilities in question were acquired less than a year ago.
Before that, the prior operator of the facilities failed to make timely payments to some of the vendors and did not file Medicare cost reports in a timely manner, which caused Medicare to temporarily discontinue making payments to the facilities. They also state that the prior operator neglected to submit certain federal payments (Medicare and Veterans Affairs program) to the facilities, which they say totals to more than $500,000, leading to cash flow issues.
The facilities state that the issues concerning Medicare have all been resolved as of now, which will allow them to begin the process of catching up on outstanding payments. Also, a lawsuit against the prior owner to recover those payments is still pending.
On learning that their applications had been denied, the nursing homes filed petitions for review with the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC), seeking a full evidentiary hearing. A hearing date has not been set yet.
The facilities hope that the courts will provide injunctive relief as they await their appeal with the AHC, stating that the Nov. 1 notices from DHSS indicate an attempt to deny the license without giving an evidentiary hearing or a survey inspection, and state that any denial without affording them the right to either is a deprivation of their constitutional or civil rights.
The Missouri Times reached out to DHSS for comment on the matter, but a spokesperson for the department said that its policy not to comment on pending litigation.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.