Nursing home investigated by ABC27 now on provisional license

COLUMBIA, Pa. (WHTM) – ABC27 has learned Susquehanna Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Columbia, Lancaster County is now operating on a provisional license.

A few weeks ago, an ABC27 report showed the facility’s history of health violations, former employees’ allegations of resident neglect, and a video of cockroaches in the kitchen.

A notice from the Department of Health dated Sept. 8 shows Susquehanna Valley’s provisional license is a result of “failure to enforce the rules necessary to ensure the health and safety of the residents” based on a July 1 inspection.

The July 1 inspection shows several violations and a plan of correction for Susquehanna Valley. The Health Department says it issues a provisional license when a facility does not follow that plan.

Susquehanna Valley is still allowed to accept new residents, but the provisional license means the Health Department will be at the facility more frequently to monitor conditions.

ABC27 called Vita Healthcare Group, which owns Susquehanna Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The person who answered the phone agreed to answer questions in a recorded phone interview the following day.

When ABC27 called at the scheduled time, no one answered. Reporter Amanda St. Hilaire then received a text message saying attorney Aaron Lichtman would be available to answer questions.

Lichtman was scheduled to call ABC27 at 2 p.m. on Tuesday for a recorded phone interview. He never called. Instead, he sent ABC27 the following statement:

“Susquehanna Valley Nursing Home has new ownership that has committed to spending more than one million ($1,000,000) dollars in capital improvements. Renovations are already underway. More importantly, Susquehanna Valley Nursing Home has 231 employees who work hard to provide loving and effective care to our 170 residents. All deficiencies, no matter how large or small, were addressed and cleared by the Department of Health and the Department of Health has found no wrongdoing with regard to the allegation made by disgruntled former employees.”

“Like in all communities, no matter how wonderful, from time to time a problem occurs. If a problem occurs we will address it promptly and with the intent to learn from any mistakes. We thank our nurses, certified assistants, other employees, family members and our residents themselves for collectively working particularly hard over the last several months to push our facility closer to our goal of being the premier Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the region.”

The new ownership Lichtman refers to is that of Vita Healthcare Group, which took over operations of Susquehanna Valley in June 2015.

When ABC27 asked about the provisional license, Lichtman emailed a response, saying, “A provisional license was previously issued based on historical data. As a result, our residents will enjoy frequent state surveys, which together with our efforts help to ensure our residents are receiving high-quality care.”

The Department of Health maintains that Susquehanna Valley is operating under a provisional license based on a July 1 inspection, which occurred after the facility had been under Vita Healthcare’s ownership for more than one year.

The provisional license will be in effect until January 2017. At that point, the Health Department has the option to renew. At any point during the process, the department has the power to shut the facility down.

In the past, Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy has discussed the issues that can arise for residents if nursing homes are shut down, especially in communities that do not have many health facilities.

ABC27 will continue to follow this story.

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