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New Jersey state officials say Princeton nursing home violated law when it abruptly shut down

NJ officials say Princeton nursing home violated law with abrupt closure
NJ officials say Princeton nursing home violated law with abrupt closure 02:25

PRINCETON, N.J. -- We're learning more about a Princeton nursing home where 72 seniors were told to move out with less than a day's notice.

The state told CBS New York on Thursday the nursing home did not comply with a law that requires 60 days notice before closing. As CBS New York's investigative reporter Tim McNicholas reports, the state says the nursing home couldn't make payroll.

Months before Chaunpit Pattanasin, Florence Edwards, Nora Mikkelseon and 69 other seniors were forced to leave the Princeton Care Center, the nursing home faced multiple lawsuits related to unpaid bills, including one from the landlord, Michael Temkin, who says the Princeton Care Center last paid him rent in February.

"I felt terrible that this happened," Temkin said. "And I believe had, perhaps, DOH intervened when I asked them to put someone in, had the judge moved a little faster and made the right decision, and maybe had HUD intervened, perhaps there would have been a different outcome."

The outcome was an abrupt shutdown that left families scrambling to find new homes for their loved ones the Friday before Labor Day.

Family members say residents were offered transfers to other homes more than an hour away, but Stacy Launer says her mom, Nora, needed to stay close to Princeton to treat her lung cancer.

"My mother gave me a call and she was sobbing," Launer said. "She said that she needed to be out of the facility, that they were closing down."

Princeton Mayor Mark Freda is calling on the state health department to reevaluate its policies for emergency closures.

"There's people in that care center, whether they're in memory care or whatever, aren't capable of, like, even understanding what was going on around them, and what happens if your family is who knows how far away? What if they can't get there?" he said.

Court records obtained by CBS New York show over the summer, a judge ordered Princeton Care Center to pay more than $272,000 to a medical supply company over unpaid bills.

A week after the closure, people loading up a U-Haul outside the facility told CBS New York they'd just bought some supplies for another company.

The state health department sent CBS New York the following statement:

"The Department of Health sympathizes with the residents and families who have been impacted by the abrupt closure of this facility and by relocation.

"We are actively reviewing this case and working with partner agencies, state departments, and key stakeholders to discuss regulatory and/or operational solutions to further strengthen the quality and resiliency of our long-term care system and that may help to avoid a situation like this from occurring again.

"When a facility activates its emergency evacuation plan, as Princeton Care Center did, the main goal is to relocate residents to temporary facilities to ensure continuity of care. Once relocated, residents can choose to permanently stay where they were moved or they can choose to move to a different facility.

"In the case of an activated emergency closure, the Department cannot force a facility to remain open, as that would be forcing residents to stay in an unsafe situation. The facility did not comply with the current law that requires at least 60 days' notice to residents and residents' legal representatives, if applicable, and the Department of Health prior to closing or relocation of a nursing home or assisted living facility. The Department did not receive such a notice from the facility. Instead, the facility notified the Department that it could not make payroll; as a result, there would no longer be facility staff available to provide care to residents; and was implementing its emergency closure plan immediately.

"In the case of an emergency situation, the administrator of the facility is statutorily required to notify, in writing, a resident, the resident's legal representative, if applicable, and the Department of Health of the closure or relocation as soon as practicable.

"When PCC initiated its evacuation plan, the Department immediately sent Survey and Mission Critical staff to Princeton Care Center and remained onsite during the residents' transfers to their new, temporary homes until the last resident left the building to ensure their health and well-being.  The State's Long Term Care Ombudsperson's office has visited each of the residents in their temporary residence and the Department of Human Services is working to allow residents choice in moving to permanent homes.

"The state Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, and the Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsperson continue to monitor the residents who were relocated to make sure they are afforded a choice of their permanent homes."

CBS New York reached out to the nursing home administrator, Ezra Bogner, who won't answer our questions.

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