The largest nursing home in St. Louis closed so abruptly last week, according to the union representing workers there, that 170 people living there were moved to new homes without notifying relatives and staff did not receive their last paycheck.
The Missouri Health and Senior Services Department said in a statement to The Associated Press that it was notified on Friday afternoon of Northview Village’s closure. Lenny Jones, the state director of a union representing workers at the facility, confirmed the closure.
More than 170 residents, who were shuttled overnight to their new homes, left their belongings behind and their relatives weren’t given notice of the move, said Marjorie Moore, executive director for VOYCE, a group in St. Louis that advocates for long-term care residents and their relatives. Mr. Jones also confirmed the movement of the 170 people.
Northview Village’s phone number did not appear to be operating late on Monday evening. And a message could not be left for Healthcare Accounting Services, the company that owns the nursing home, at the number that was listed.
“It really is like a family was torn apart,” said Ms. Moore, adding that they were helping relatives find residents, some who were relocated to at least 14 other facilities in the region. Many of the residents had relied on Medicaid, she said in a phone interview, which had made it even more challenging to find new homes for them.
“These people were certainly not in good health and need a lot of care,” she said. “Its almost like their entire world has been ripped from them.”
In the past three years, the facility had received more than 20 citations after inspectors investigated complaints. Since March 2021, it had received more than $140,000 in fines for not meeting federal standards.
A staff member who visited the facility on Saturday described the scene as “apocalyptic,” Ms. Moore added. “It looked like the place had been ransacked. Papers were all over the place. Carts were just ransacked,” Ms. Moore said about the worker’s account. Several televisions were still on and baseball cards were laid out on one bed. “It was just like everybody had to go all of a sudden.”
On Monday, relatives were still desperately trying to find their loved ones in their new care facilities. Alvin Cooper told The A.P. he was trying to find his son, Alvin Cooper Jr. who had lived in Northview Village for several months while recovering from a gunshot wound to the head.
“They don’t know where he is,” Mr. Cooper told The A.P. He was preparing to file a missing persons report. “I don’t know if he’s somewhere safe or what’s going to happen to him.”
It was unclear on Monday evening why Northview Village had shuttered so quickly. According to the union representing about 100 workers at the nursing home, workers first realized something was amiss when they did not receive their biweekly paychecks on Friday afternoon.
“They were told that there was no money coming,” said Mr. Jones, the Missouri state director of a local of the Service Employees International Union. “There are workers who have lost their jobs who have been there for 37 years.”
“They did not prepare us,” Carolyn Hawthorn, a registered nurse, told reporters outside the facility on Friday. “A lot of staff members here are hardworking. They need this money to feed their children,” she said, adding: “It’s ten days before Christmas.”
Mr. Jones said he had never heard of such an abrupt shutdown. Typically, he said, a nursing home must give notice to the federal Medicaid program and give the state time to transfer residents to other families and contact their family members.
“This nursing home obviously didn’t do any of that,” he said. Workers have since been told that they would receive their paychecks soon, but were not told about other benefits, like accrued vacation and severance pay.
The union, he added, had received complaints from workers about Northview Village for years, he added, including bedbugs, sewage issues and staffing shortages. He said the problem of nursing home owners putting profits ahead of care is endemic.
Northview Village had received a one-star rating, out of five, by a federal ratings system, grades that can be inflated, a Times investigation found this year. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service, nursing staff at Northview Village had spent nearly two hours on each resident a day, about half of the national average.