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VTH brings home a bad report card

The old Castle Rest Nursing Home was first built as a general hospital in 1916 becoming East Castle Rest Nursing home in 1967. Unfortunately, “Castle Rest” ended up in receivership under Lorreto Management Group where it remained until a group of black professionals called the Syracuse Black Leadership Congress successfully campaigned for control.

In 1994, under the auspices of The Syracuse Black Leadership Congress, a new facility was built and re-named after the late Vivian Teal Howard, local social worker, community activist, and wife of Hopp’s Memorial CME Pastor, Rev. Larry S. Howard.

The newly built and renamed Vivian Teal Howard Residential Health Care Facility opened with much fanfare as a health care institution managed and operated by the African American community. Over 50 percent of Vivian Teal Howard’s clients are African-American or Hispanic making the residential health care facility an important part of the city’s minority community.

Several years into operating Vivian Teal Howard RHC began to show cracks in the veneer, complaints about their failure to pay health care professionals prevailing wages were among some early grievances about the operation of VTH. Horror stories of visits with relatives were common place, as I was told of a man laying in bed the floor surrounding him was so filthy that “your feet felt as though they were on fly paper.”

The Syracuse Black Leadership Congress, an organization that campaigned for control of VTH no longer exists. In July of 2004 Rev. Howard left Hopp’s Memorial CME and Syracuse to move to be closer to family in Denver, Co. The legacy to a remembered Social Worker is mired in controversy over the quality of resident patient care.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday identified 54 U.S. nursing homes across the United States the only one listed in New York State was Vivian Teal Howard as a result of the serious problems found in the CMS report the VTH was recently fined $215,212.50.

According to the 126-page report based on a January 2007 visit by the Department of Health And Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:

“Resident #12 maintained a record of receiving his oxycodone and whether the oxycodone was available. Per the record: – January 6, 2007: the LPN (licensed practical nurse) medication nurse informed him that there were only 2 tablets remaining of oxycodone, and that that physician had not reordered this medication; – January 7, 2007: the resident received the last 2 oxycodone tablets; – January 8, 2007: oxycodone was not available, and had not yet been ordered by the physician;- January 9, 2007: oxycodone was not available; – January 10, 2007: oxycodone was not available; – January 11, 2007: oxycodone had arrived today and was administered at 10:00 PM.

A nursing progress note written by an LPN on January 7, 2007 at 10:30 AM, documented that the resident complained of lower back pain and that pain medication was not available, but the resident received morphine. A nursing progress note dated January 11, 2007 documented that the resident stated to the nurse that he got relief from oxycodone. The resident stated to a surveyor on January 26, 2007 at 11:15 AM that there was a period of days earlier in January 2007 that his oxycodone was unavailable. On January 26, 2007 at 1:20 PM, the resident stated that he had pain all the time and that it was “agonizing” without receiving the oxycodone. ”

When Joe Corradino took over the administrator job at Vivian Teal Howard Residential Health Care Facility he knew there were issues at Syracuse’s inner-city facility, “I knew when I took the job I started in June of 2006 and was only here a few months before the inspection. The bad survey goes back a year ago. It was a difficult survey, we received the report and acted immediately, we hired consultants and we were inspected again in January of this year. And another follow-up in May for the January report, that was cleared.”

Corradino continues, “The facility is doing much better than it was a year ago, I feel bad about this, people are saying, ‘oh my God what’s going on in there’, it’s long past us” Corradino seams sincerely apologetic and accommodating, “I’ve spoken to a lot of people and they’re generally supportive.”

Former VTH Board Member Walt Dixie came to the defense of management as he points to greater issues that impact care at the facility, “As hospitals release people back into the black community sometimes they are the sickest and they’re in greater need of care and with the lack of an adequate Medicare reimbursement formula, like anything you have costs. For example Van Dyne receives support from Onondaga County they have a hard time with costs. And then add it up you have to hire people, how competitive can you be? And lack of funds can have an impact on training and development of staff a never-ending cycle. Vivian Teal Howard Residential Health Care Facility needs a foundation to raise money to help the place.”

As he rushes off to handle another situation Mr. Corridino assures me that his door is open and that the facility is making steady improvements. “Next spring, these reports will reflect the work that we’ve done here.”

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