Valley News reported on Vermont’s new law that will change the way officials scrutinize nursing home ownership changes after the state’s oversight came under scrutiny last year when the 67-bed Brookside Health and Rehabilitation Center closed because of unaddressed health and safety violations. The Brookside incident aside, state officials also have been engaged in a more general discussion of changes in the nursing home industry. Those changes include a trend toward large, out-of-state companies buying nursing homes, then breaking up home operations and real estate into separate corporations. This is done to avoid accountability for abuse and neglect, and to siphon funds to related entities. Green Mountain Care Board member Jessica Holmes told the House Health Care Committee earlier this year that such companies are “buying up small mom-and-pop nursing homes, operating them at arm’s length and extracting short-term gains.”
The law created an eight-member group to study the ways to improve the state’s oversight of nursing homes. Nursing Home Oversight Working Group is supposed to “examine the oversight of nursing homes in Vermont, including financial stability and licensing criteria, in order to ensure the provision of high-quality services and a safe and stable environment for nursing home residents.” The working group will look at a wide variety of issues, including the information currently reported by nursing homes and “what types of additional financial data may be necessary to evaluate nursing homes’ ongoing financial stability.”
Also, as of July 1, oversight of nursing home transfers will switch from the Green Mountain Care Board to the Agency of Human Services. Officials with both entities support the change, saying the care board is ill-suited to regulate the increasingly complex world of nursing home ownership. Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille is pledging to develop “a very thorough, very credible review process” for when his agency takes over. “I completely agree with the Green Mountain Care Board’s assessment that this is not the work for them,” Gobeille said.