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Judges in Prairie and Howard counties on Friday temporarily transferred two nursing homes to state control after state officials raised concerns about the finances of the facilities' New Jersey-based operator.

Spring Place Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Hazen, in Prairie County, and Dierks Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Dierks, in Howard County, are among 21 nursing homes in the state operated by Wood-Ridge, N.J.-based Skyline Healthcare.

According to news reports, state officials in Pennsylvania, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota have taken similar actions against Skyline facilities in the past few months.

The court orders in Arkansas came after officials learned this week that a lender to the Hazen and Dierks nursing homes "was no longer going to extend credit for these two facilities," said Craig Cloud, director of the state Department of Human Services' Division of Provider Services and Quality Assurance.

Inspectors with the department's Office of Long Term Care then identified "concerns about their food vendor being able to receive timely payments" and "not being able to provide an adequate supply of food," he said.

"No residents went without any meals or without any food" at either home, he added.

Judges granted the department's requests to place the nursing homes under state control pending a hearing.

Affiliates of Reliance Health Care in Conway, which leases the nursing home property to Skyline, will operate both facilities on behalf of the department, Cloud said.

The state can tap a $10 million fund to cover expenses if necessary, he said.

"Our goal is to move through this process as quickly as possible and to ensure that the operator on a long-term basis is stable, has the appropriate financial backing and the ability to meet the quality-of-care standards that we expect," Cloud said.

State officials said it was the first time since the 1980s that the state had taken over a nursing home.

They said the Dierks nursing home has 52 residents and the Hazen home has 39.

"Skyline is deeply saddened that it is unable to continue operations in these two facilities," company spokesman Michael Kosowski said in a statement. "Skyline will cooperate with the state to transition the two facilities to the new operator and will work to ensure the continued operation of the facilities and the best interests of the residents."

Cloud said the department is monitoring the company's other nursing homes in the state.

According to a report in the Kansas City Star, the family-owned business was formed in 2008 and took over 110 nursing homes in Arkansas, Massachusetts, Florida, Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota between 2015 and 2017.

The company first entered Arkansas in June 2016, state Office of Long Term Care Director Carol Shockley said.

Reliance General Counsel Eric Bell said in a statement that Skyline notified its landlord and the state on Thursday "that it did not intend to meet its financial obligations regarding critical patient care."

Reliance, which operates several nursing homes in the state, then consulted with the state and dispatched personnel to both locations, he said.

While Reliance affiliates own the "bricks and mortar" of the Dierks and Hazen nursing homes, it hasn't operated them in more than nine years, Bell said.

Skyline took over the homes' operations from an "unrelated prior operator," he said.

"Upon Skyline receiving national attention in recent weeks due to its financial difficulties in other states, Reliance began working with the state to formulate a plan to protect the well-being of the patients and employees in these facilities," Bell said.

Rachel Bunch, director of the Arkansas Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, said in an email that her group supports the Human Services Department's actions.

"Our members are ready to help with the resources in their nursing homes to ensure that these Arkansans get the quality of care they need and deserve," she said.

Metro on 05/05/2018

Print Headline: Agency seizes 2 nursing homes; Finance woes cited by state

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