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Endangering the Welfare

Published on June 28th, 2018

McKnight’s had an interesting article regarding the arrests of operator-owner Joseph Zupnik and Daniel Herman, a top-level manager.  The men ran Focus Ostego, which was operated by CCRN, which was owned almost entirely by Zupnik, according to The Daily Star.  They were arraigned May 31 on three counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a felony; two counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a class A misdemeanor; and three counts of willful violation of health laws, an unclassified misdemeanor.

In 2014, the Ostego County nursing home had 298 employees. By 2016 — under new, private ownership — that number was down to 225, despite immediate jeopardy findings and plenty of other regulatory and staff warnings about quality of care.  Short-staffing always affects the quality of care.

“Upon taking ownership and control of the home’s operation in October 2014, Zupnik, Herman and CCRN cut staff payroll, cut staffing and cut other necessary services and supplies needed to provide safe and adequate care to more than 200 individual residents who were in the care of Focus through at least November 29, 2016, when Focus was designated as a Special Focus Facility by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services,” read the state’s complaint.

The Attorney General’s office said CCRN disregarded communications from local and federal officials and senior staff “that residents were at risk for harm.”   Those missed opportunities for improvement included:

  • State health inspection surveys and reports that contained immediate jeopardy findings in 2015 and 2016.
  • Warnings from senior managers about the defendants’ 50% cuts in payroll and staffing and required double shifts.
  • Six arrests between May 2015 and August 2016 of Focus staff for crimes at the facility involving healthcare offenses. These included neglect of a 91-year-old fall victim and a 94-year-old woman who developed a pressure sore after 41 hours in a recliner.

Otsego County owned and operated the nursing home in question before selling it to Focus for $18.5 million. Focus has since been resold to Centers Health Care, which renamed it Cooperstown Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing.

Joe Pioletti
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