Owners of St. Louis nursing home that closed abruptly face federal fine of more than $55,000

ST. LOUIS — Federal regulators have issued a $55,000 fine after St. Louis’ largest nursing home closed without warning, although experts said the amount collected will likely be smaller.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the fine in a letter to the owners of Northview Village, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The 320-bed skilled nursing facility closed suddenly on Dec. 15 as the company that owned it struggled to meet payroll. Starting then and lasting through Dec. 17, when Northview gave up its Medicare and Medicaid contracts, it was “in violation,” documents released this week show.

The letter from the federal agency says that if Northview waives its rights to a hearing, the $18,770-per-day penalty for that three-day span will be reduced by 35%.

Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, an advocacy group, said that is the norm for the agency’s penalties. He said fines frequently are reduced or eliminated.

“Given what happened here, I think it’s a fine that’s well below what the egregious behavior of this operator merits,” he said.

Members of the nursing home’s ownership group did not immediately return calls from the Post-Dispatch or The Associated Press seeking comment Wednesday.

The closure was chaotic, with many patients left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, creating confusion and spurring outrage among residents and their families. Some were relocated without their medical records or medication lists.

One resident with schizophrenia was missing more than three weeks before he was found.

Further complicating the closure, Northview housed many residents on Medicaid who couldn’t get into other long-term care facilities, including people with mental health and behavioral problems, advocates for the residents have said.

“For everything that happened, it seems low,” said Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, the regional nursing home ombudsman program.

Last month, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, a St. Louis Democrat, called for a federal investigation of the owners as well as a probe of Missouri’s system of overseeing nursing homes.

As of Wednesday, Bush’s office had not received any response from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was not aware of any other actions taken on Northview.

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