Mismanagement, food shortages prompt state to step in at elderly homes

Photo by Aidan Quigley/VTDigger
The Allenwood at Pillsbury senior living community in South Burlington is among three facilities that have been taken over by a state-appointed receiver.

By XANDER LANDEN and COLIN MEYN
VTDigger.org

The state has taken over a fourth residential elderly care facility owned by the Texas-based company, East Lake Capital Management, as legal proceedings over management at three other homes have been delayed.

Last week, the state took over two homes for the elderly in South Burlington and one in St. Albans after officials say the owner failed to carry out basic business practices for months and in recent weeks failed to stock food.

The four residential care facilities, home to about 200 residents, form the Pillsbury Group Residential Care Homes and are owned by East Lake Capital Management, which is based in Dallas. Allenwood at Pillsbury and Pillsbury Manor South are located in South Burlington and Homestead at Pillsbury is in St. Albans.

On Tuesday, Harborview in South Burlington, which is home to 70 elderly residents who require a lower level of care than the other facilities, was added to the state’s oversight. Harborview doesn’t fall under the purview of state regulation, which is why officials had yet to install management there, according to Assistant Attorney General Bessie Weiss

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office and the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living announced last Friday that they had obtained a court order putting a receiver in charge of managing the facilities after receiving complaints from staff, residents and their family members about inadequate staffing levels, the company not cashing checks, and food scarcity.

The state disabilities and aging department, which regulates the state’s nursing homes, began receiving complaints about the company not cashing checks between two and three months ago, according to Clayton Clark, the director of the department’s division of licensing and protection.

The department cited the company for its business practices in September, but in more recent weeks, it began hearing about food insecurity at the facility. Clark said staff started paying for food for residents out of their own pockets.

“Anecdotally we have heard from staff that when food would become scarce that they would go to Costco and purchase food to make sure that the residents had the basic necessities,” Clark said.

The lack of food is what ultimately led the state to intervene, officials said. “If there was food insecurity three months ago, we would have acted three months ago,” Clark said.

Residents never went hungry, according to Charity Clark, Attorney General TJ Donovan’s chief of staff, but the facilities’ long-term food supplies were dwindling.

East Lake Capital Management bought the three nursing homes in February of last year.

Charity Clark said that the Attorney General’s Office began receiving complaints about the company’s business practices, including its failure to return deposits to customers, between March and May of this year.

East Lake Capital Management is registered with the Secretary of State, but hasn’t filed a report on its activities in Vermont since February. Its next filing deadline is January. The company’s listed address in Vermont is in Barre, at the office of Martin & Delaney Law Group.

Andrew Delaney, a partner at the firm, said they were contracted by CSC, a national corporate services company, to receive and relay service if East Lake Capital is sued, but that was the extent of their relationship. The number listed for East Lake Capital on its website did not allow incoming calls. The company does not appear to have any other Vermont footprint.

The Washington County Superior Court granted the state’s request to place a temporary receiver in charge of the facilities on Nov. 7.

The court appointed Douglas Wolinsky, an attorney with experience in estate management to “stabilize the business practices at all three homes and limit interruptions to residents and their families,” the attorney general’s office said in a press release.

During a hearing next week, the state will argue to appoint a permanent receiver in charge of the nursing homes.

The licensing division at the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living has conducted a number of investigations into Pillsbury facilities that found various violations this year alone.

During an unannounced visit to the Allenwood facility in June, a state investigator found the residential care home had admitted a patient that needed a level of care the facility wasn’t licensed to provide, that food was inappropriately labeled, stored, and in some cases past-due.

The state investigator returned to Allenwood for an unannounced visit in August and found that one resident was billed for a much more intensive level of care than was necessary.

Employees also failed to intervene after a patient went 10 days without a bowel movement — until the state investigator pointed out the problem. The state also found problems with inadequate staffing, with schedules revealing there hadn’t been a nurse on duty at all on one day to oversee how medications were doled out.

At the Pillsbury Manor South facility, state investigators checked in in July and August, where they found former patients weren’t receiving refunds in a timely manner, and that staff weren’t receiving mandatory trainings or undergoing the appropriate background checks.

Sarah Holm, executive director of the Homestead facility in St. Albans, declined to comment on the company’s state of affairs and referred a reporter to Wolinsky, who is senior vice president of the law firm Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer.

Rose Bacon, business office manager at Pillsbury Senior Communities, said staff would have no comment on the situation and referred questions to Wolinsky.

Wolinsky did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment from VTDigger, nor did he return a call for comment on Monday from The Other Paper in South Burlington.

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