New Jersey-based company Synergy, which operates 10 nursing homes in Massachusetts, is closing 2 of its facilities and being forced to sell the rest due to long-standing problems with debt and resident negligence. The company has been repeatedly fined as a result of residents being seriously injured or dying while in its facilities, because of alleged nursing home abuse.
Most of the properties that Synergy operates are now under the control of KCP Advisory Group, a company that has been appointed by the courts to find new buyers for these nursing homes. The question remains as to whether living conditions will improve for the 1,200 residents in these facilities, or if tragic cycles of abuse will be allowed to continue under different management.
Home of Horrors
The 2 nursing homes that are being closed are located in Sunderland and Newton, Massachusetts. The home in Sunderland was the first purchased by Synergy 6 years ago. Somehow the company was granted other state licenses, even though there were apparent problems with residents’ care and well-being. Synergy has been digging itself into a deeper financial hole over the past several years, and now has $31 Million in mortgage debts.
The for-profit company has also been fined multiple times for a range of infractions, including problems with the dosage of medications, staff that have been poorly trained, and infections and bed sores that were neglected and allowed to worsen.
According to Arlene Germain, president of the nonprofit group Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Synergy has injured both patients and health-care providers: “They are leaving with a wide path of destruction behind them, harming the workers and the residents.”
Massachusetts company The Pointe Group is going through the process of being approved to buy 2 of Synergy’s locations in Wilmington and Salem. This company already owns 3 nursing homes in Massachusetts, but 2 have been rated “below average” and 1 has been rated “average” by federal authorities.
KCP Advisory Group is now looking for buyers for the other homes currently owned by Synergy, which is now managing 1 facility, Park Avenue Health Center in Arlington, MA. Clearly this is 1 home too many, and a KCP representative has suggested the arrangement will not last long.
History of Health Harm
With a long history of nursing home resident abuse and neglect, it is extremely disturbing that Synergy has been allowed to maintain control of these properties for so many years. In an incident in 2016, a patient death was simply not reported, and administration later claimed the resident “had no family.”
Other tragic cases include a resident who died after being dropped by attendants, and another who fell out of bed and later passed away after not being cared for properly through the night. In a third incident scabies was discovered at Woodbriar Health Center, and all of the residents in that unit had to be treated for 2-to-3 weeks.
This inexcusable lapse in care has had devastating consequences for residents and their families, while administrators lined their pockets with profit. While executives reaped $2 Million into their personal bank accounts, caregivers had to fight to get enough supplies for residents. The company also has a history of spending 20 percent less on residents than the state average.
Caring for Patients, Caring for Staff, Putting People before Profits
Sadly, the cost of nursing home care does not filter down to nursing home attendants and nurses who put in long hours caring for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Researchers argue that residents would have better care if nursing home staff were paid more and there were more people on duty. Those kinds of working conditions would mean less caregiver burnout and better overall care.
Turnover rates for nursing home attendants can be as high as 100 percent in for-profit homes like the ones operated by Synergy. These facilities consistently have lower pay, poorer benefits, heavier workloads, and often do not schedule workers to fit their requested hours and obligations to family.
This turnover rate also makes the cost of nursing home care higher, because facilities have to find new employees. Nursing homes that perform the worst in research studies have staff that are overworked, have the highest turnover rate, and no incentive to provide good care.
Improving these conditions means hiring competent and qualified health-care workers, training them properly, and paying them what they are due. This dangerous cycle of abuse and neglect of both nursing home residents and care providers must stop, not only in facilities formerly owned by Synergy, but in for-profit nursing homes across the country. It is only when we put people before profits that we will see improvements in nursing home care.