The Saratoga Center for Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care had been on the radar of state and federal governments for some time. The nursing home in Ballston Spa, New York, was on a watch list for two years before closing in February 2021. The Department of Justice announced a $7,168,000 fine to the property owners and individuals running the facility for providing “worthless services” to residents and submitting false bills to Medicaid for services not rendered.
Landlord takes over
New York State is cautious about issuing licenses to operate nursing, citing the risk to vulnerable elderly patients and fraudulent billing to the government. Saratoga Springs was issued a license in 2014 with Alan “Ari” Schwartz, Jeffrey Vegh and property owner Leon Melohn.
But in February 2017, Melohn had a financial dispute with the legal operators of the nursing home, Schwartz and Vegh. Melohn took control of the operation, hiring Jack Jaffa to run it. Unfortunately, Jaffa did not have the license to operate the nursing home, nor did he have the disposition to do it ethically. Under this regime, there were reports of:
- Medication errors
- Unnecessary falls
- Pressure ulcers
Moreover, the facility did not have consistent hot running water throughout the facility, did not dispose of its solid waste and did not maintain an adequate supply of linens for the residents. These lapses led to the Saratoga Center being placed on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Special Focus Facility list in 2019 (this list compiles the worst nursing homes in the United States) until it closed.
“Nursing homes should protect the health and well-being of every resident,” said U.S. Attorney Carla Freedman for the Northern District of New York. “That did not happen at Saratoga Center. Instead, a business dispute between the operators and landlord led to dangerous conditions for residents and staff, and caused the submission of false claims to Medicaid for worthless services. This case demonstrates that we will hold responsible people accountable when they pocket federal funds while providing substandard care.”
This investigation was part of the Elder Justice Initiative between state and federal offices to combat elder abuse, financial abuse and exploitation.