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Federal officials yank certifications for Penobscot nursing home

By Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News, Maine
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 19--PENOBSCOT, Maine -- A local nursing home will lose its Medicaid and Medicare certifications at the end of the month, forcing residents to find new places to live.

Federal officials sent a letter dated June 11 to Penobscot Nursing Home indicating that the facility's health insurance benefits agreement and certification in the federal health care programs were being terminated as of June 30. The reason for the termination, according to the the letter, is the nursing home's "failure to achieve and maintain substantial compliance" in remedying several deficiencies that state officials discovered at the facility over a series of inspections that began in January.

In the letter, J. William Roberson, associate regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, informed Penobscot Nursing Home Administrator Janice McManus-Rackliffe that within a week of receiving the letter, the nursing home has to notify all Medicare and Medicaid residents of the termination and must develop a closure plan.

Roberson said in the letter that the termination action by the federal agency can be stopped if an acceptable plan of correction is submitted to state officials by June 16. He also said that Penobscot Nursing Home has been fined $19,000 in civil penalties for the infractions and, in addition, has to pay a daily fine of $2,350 for every day since May 23 that the infractions have not been addressed. The $2,350 daily fine will accrue until either the deficiencies are fixed or the June 30 termination date arrives.

McManus-Rackliffe did not respond to a message left at her office requesting comment. Officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services and with the federal Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services have been contacted but have not provided comments about the situation.

Paul Bowen, chairman of the Penobscot Board of Selectmen, blamed the state for the lingering issues that have led to the revocation of the federal certifications. The nursing home and six others in Maine owned by Connecticut-based Eagle Landing Residential Care Maine LLC have been in receivership since 2008.

The towns of Penobscot and Blue Hill have been given a formal say in the receivership of Penobscot Nursing Home because of the geographic isolation of the nursing home from other certified Medicare and Medicaid facilities.

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Bowen said Thursday that Maine has a limit on the number of beds for Medicare and Medicaid patients at nursing homes, and for a couple of years, Maine DHHS has been interested in reassigning "bed rights" for the 80 or so at Penobscot Nursing Home to other facilities.

"We are dismayed this has occurred under state receivership," Bowen said Thursday. "The deficiencies that have occurred have been under the state's watch. It's outrageous."

There have been other issues at the facility besides its finances and physical condition. In March, a Penobscot Nursing Home resident allegedly was sexually assaulted by an aide who worked at the facility. Sara Comtois, who no longer works at the nursing home, is facing two counts of gross sexual assault and one count of intentionally endangering the welfare of a dependent person, according to documents filed in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court in Ellsworth.

It was not clear Thursday afternoon if the alleged March 26 incident is considered a factor in the decision to terminate Penosbcot Nursing Home'sMedicare and Medicaid provider agreement.

Watch bangordailynews.com for updates.

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(c)2014 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)

Visit the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) at www.bangordailynews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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