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State takes over nursing home said to endanger patients

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The Minnesota Department of Health has taken over management of a nursing home in north Minneapolis after state investigators found conditions that were dangerous to patients.

Ramsey County District Court granted the agency's request to take over the Camden Care Center on Thursday, and new managers were on site Friday afternoon.

The nursing home cares for about 67 patients, many of whom have behavioral issues including psychiatric disorders, dementia or substance abuse, according to the agency's filing with the court.  

Department of Health spokesperson Scott Smith said persistent problems at the facility started soon after Seattle-based Videll Healthcare began managing it in 2012.

"The criteria that was met for this takeover was the sheer number of violations, and the seriousness of them, and in particular the fact that this management company didn't seem to have the ability to correct the violations or to change course," Smith said.

The state cited the Camden Care Center in March for 47 health and safety violations, including at least two that inspectors found were "likely to cause serious injury, harm, impairment or death to a resident." In one documented incident, staff failed to intervene after a patient reported that she had been physically threatened by another patient.

In April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified managers that the nursing home would be denied payments for new Medicare and Medicaid admissions effective April 29. The federal agency also fined the facility $56,700 and terminated its agreement to provide treatments covered by Medicare and Medicaid as of Aug. 18.

On May 13, state inspectors found that the facility had not corrected 26 of the 47 violations cited in March. They also found three violations that put patients in danger.

"There was unsafe smoking in the facility, the residents were also coming and going without staff knowledge, then there was an incident in May where two residents were using alcohol and drugs in the facility to the point where they had to be taken to the hospital," Smith said.

The facility also appeared to be struggling to keep nursing staff due to nonpayment of wages and benefits, according to the state's filing in Ramsey County District Court.

The state appointed non-profit Volunteers of America - National Services to manage the Camden Care Center. By law, the state's receivership of the facility can't extend past 18 months.

"We took this step as a last resort because the nursing home licensee was not keeping residents safe and was not meeting Minnesota's basic standards of care," Department of Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger said in a statement Tuesday.

Videll Healthcare CEO Steve LaForte said the violations cited by inspectors at the Minneapolis nursing home were largely due to financial distress at the company over the last two years.

"The facility had issues when we took it over. We thought that we could traverse the issues, [but] they were compounded when Medicaid rates got reduced retroactively after we took it over," LaForte said. "It created a situation that's unfortunate."   There have been similar reports of problems at other Videll facilities, specifically in Massachusetts.  

The company is in the process of discontinuing its management over all four remaining facilities, according to LaForte. He said he's cooperating with the state of Minnesota to ensure a smooth transition at the Camden Care Center.