ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca nursing home Cayuga Ridge Extended Care was one of 400 nursing homes cited in a report released by Pennsylvania senators this week that reveals a previously undisclosed list of nursing homes that have a documented pattern of poor care.

Many of the documented cases of abuse took place in facilities affiliated with the federal Special Focus Facility program, overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The SFF program is designed to increase oversight of facilities that consistently underperform in required inspections. Of more than 15,000 nursing homes across the country, 88 facilities are selected for the SFF program, and the names of those participants are made public. However, an additional 435 facilities qualify for the program and are identified as having a “persistent record of poor care,” but are not selected to take part in the program due to limited resources of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

The names of the 435 nursing homes that qualify but are not selected to participate have not been disclosed to the public until this week. In March 2019, U.S. Senators Bob Casey, D-PA, and Pat Toomey, R-PA, wrote to CMS, which handed over what the senators described as a “secret list of facilities with a documented pattern of poor care.”

“When a family makes the hard decision to seek nursing home services for a loved one, they deserve to know if a facility under consideration suffers from systemic shortcomings. While the vast majority of nursing homes provide high-quality care, there are some that are consistently failing to meet objective standards of adequacy. To date, CMS has arbitrarily excluded from public disclosure a subset of these underperforming nursing homes. Moving forward, I hope CMS will give the public this particular list, as well as all relevant information about nursing home quality,” Sen. Toomey said in a statement.

In the report, senators said they believe the list of candidates for the SFF program should be publicly available to families seeking care for loved ones.

Two of the findings highlighted in the report include:

  • A nursing home’s participation in the SFF program is not readily transparent or easily understood among would-be residents and their families
  • Candidates for the SFF program are not disclosed to the public and these facilities do not receive any additional oversight

The report found that residents at these nursing homes have experienced neglect, going without proper nutrition or cleanliness, physical abuse, sexual assault and premature death.

Cayuga Ridge Extended Care on Trumansburg Road in Ithaca is one of 17 nursing homes on the SFF program list in New York and the only one in Tompkins County on the list. The report only shows the list of names, and does not provide further details about what qualifies them for the program or any specific incidents. A public relations representative from Cayuga Ridge could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The methodology for identifying facilities for the SFF program is based on the same methodology used in the health inspection domain of the five-star quality rating system for the Nursing Home Compare tool on Medicare.gov. Cayuga Ridge is currently listed on the website with one star. And it’s not the only one in Tompkins County — Oak Hill Manor Nursing Home and Groton Community Health Care Center are also listed as having one star, though neither made the SFF program list.

Read the full report from the senators here. Visit the Nursing Home Compare tool here.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.