A long-term care facility on Roosevelt Road ranked in 2007 as one of the worst in the country has improved its standing with state and federal regulators.
Under its previous owners, Berkshire Nursing and Rehab struggled for years to comply with care standards for nursing homes, and in November 2007 was publicly listed alongside more than 100 similarly substandard facilities across the country. That designation, however, was announced just months after a new ownership group took control of the nursing home. The prior owners operated the site as the Pavilion of Forest Park.
Following a series of inspections earlier this year, Berkshire Nursing and Rehab has been removed from that list, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. David Berkowitz, a co-owner and lead administrator for the facility, said the improved standing is a testament to the efforts of his staff.
“Since we’ve come in we’ve only had positive surveys, positive inspections,” Berkowitz said. “If it would have continued, we would have been in the same boat as the old management. It shows we’ve made tremendous improvements.”
The listing compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services attempts to identify those facilities with a “yo-yo” like compliance history. Once a nursing home has been deemed a “special focus facility,” it is subject to additional inspections. The longer the problems persist, the more stringent the enforcement efforts become.
Prior to being removed from the listing in late 2008, the nursing home carried the label for 39 months.
“To become a special focus facility, it is not a matter of a couple bad surveys, but a matter of a history of problems,” Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman with the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in an e-mailed statement. “The facility typically is cited for twice the average number of deficiencies during a survey, the deficiencies are more serious problems such as harm or injury to residents, and the pattern of serious problems persists over a long period of time, typically three years before the home is put on the special focus facility list.”
When Berkowitz took over the day-to-day management of the facility in July 2007, he instituted new training methods, hired nine new department heads and turned over many of the staffing positions, all within the first few months. In a January 2008 interview with the Review, Berkowitz said many of the problems could be corrected with stronger accountability and better relationships between management and staff.
Berkshire Nursing and Rehab is a 232-bed facility and 228 of those are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid funding. The nursing home is operating at about 60 percent of its patient capacity, said Berkowitz.
Inspectors from the region’s ombudsman’s office have been surprised by the dramatic turnaround at the nursing home, said Berkowitz.
“A lot of people that haven’t been there since we acquired the facility said they can’t believe the improvement,” Berkowitz said. “They were just complimenting us from the day they walked in to the survey’s completion.”
Shelia Fernandez has been visiting the facility for five years as a representative of the ombudsman. Since Berkowitz’s team has taken over, she said, the nursing home has improved “greatly.” Everything from lingering, foul odors to complaints of poor care have subsided.
“I’ve had far, far, far fewer complaints than I used to get,” Fernandez said.
In an explanation of its special focus facility listing on its Web site, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that graduating from the list does not necessarily mean that all problems have been eradicated. It does, however, demonstrate a significant improvement.
“These nursing homes have not only improved, but they sustained significant improvement for about 12 months,” the center’s Web site explained. “… Graduation … does generally indicate an upward trend in quality improvement compared to the nursing home’s prior history of care.”