CNY nursing home named 1 of nation’s worst. It must shape up or lose federal funding

Oswego, N.Y. — Government regulators are adding Pontiac Nursing Home to a list of the nation’s worst nursing homes that will lose federal funding unless they improve care.

Federal and state officials designated the 80-bed Oswego facility at 303 East River Road a “special focus facility” because of its “persistent record of poor care,” state Health Department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said Thursday.

The 80 homes on the list have had lengthy histories of serious problems that endanger residents’ health and safety. Pontiac has been cited for failing to protect residents from sexual abuse, not sending gravely ill residents to the hospital for emergency care and letting water from a leaky roof drip into residents’ rooms for years.

Facilities on the list are inspected at least twice a year. Nursing homes are typically inspected once a year.

Homes that don’t improve can be kicked out of the Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs. Medicare and Medicaid are the major funding sources for the nation’s 15,600 nursing homes. Those facilities cannot survive without that money. Pontiac received about $3.5 million from Medicare and Medicaid in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, CMS for short, said most nursing homes on the special focus list significantly improve within 18 to 24 months. About 10% that don’t improve are terminated from Medicare and Medicaid.

The crackdown by regulators comes after Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard published a series of stories revealing numerous cases of horrific abuse and neglect at the nursing home.

A registered sex offender living in Pontiac repeatedly sexually abused a female resident suffering from dementia last year. A state health department inspection found Pontiac did not protect the woman and other residents from the sex offender, and failed to report the abuse to police.

Two seriously ill residents died in 2018 because the nursing home waited too long to send them to a hospital emergency room.

In 2015 employees mocked and abused a resident suffering from dementia by taking degrading cellphone photos and videos of him.

Pontiac is one of 10 New York state nursing homes with a red abuse icon next to its name on the Medicare compare website. That shows it has a track record of abuse and neglect.

Oswego Mayor William Barlow said in a Syracuse.com story last week Pontiac should have been shut down years ago.

“Anyone who has lived in Oswego or knows anything about Oswego throughout the last 20 years knows the Pontiac Nursing Home is nothing but trouble, poorly managed, doesn’t properly care for residents and offers sub-par living and working conditions,” Barlow said.

Langston McFadden, an attorney who represents Pontiac, did not respond to phone calls and emails from Syracuse.com |The Post-Standard seeking comment. Pontiac refers all questions to its attorneys.

Pontiac will appear on the online CMS special focus facility list when it is updated later this month. Pontiac had been considered a candidate for that list for nine months.

Two other New York nursing homes are also being added to the special focus facility list: Creekview Nursing and Rehab Center in Rochester and The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehab Center in Albion.

James T. Mulder covers health and higher education. Have a news tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or [email protected]