One of nation's "worst" nursing homes has local ties

Marion County's Health and Hospital Corporation is the controlling arm of Wishard Hospital.
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Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates

Marion County - An Indiana nursing home dubbed one of the worst in the country has local ties in Marion County.

13 Investigates found the home's newest owner has a list of troubled facilities on the rebound. But not everyone is sold on the results of the state-wide rehab effort.

On its website, the Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation Center appears a welcoming home for seniors.

But the federal government has a very different snapshot - one that ranked the nursing facility among the worst in the country.

13 Investigates found owners here in Indianapolis.  They are an agency that just might surprise you.

"We acquired one of the worst nursing homes in the country for the purpose of turning it around and making it better," explained Matthew Gutwein.

Gutwein is the president and CEO of Marion County's Health and Hospital Corporation which is the controlling arm of Wishard Hospital.

In January, Gutwein helped ink the deal to buy the Valparaiso home for a mere $100.

It was on a government watch list and put on immediate jeopardy twice, and found delivering such a "Substandard Quality of Care" that federal penalties were imposed and new admissions denied.

HHC bought it anyway.

"This home had significant problems beginning in 2001 all the way up through 2007. This home was being operated by an out of state owner. It was out of state - out of sight. That's just not the way we do business," said Gutwein, "It's a very different home than what it was when the federal government looked at it."

Instead, the HHC is in the business of rehabilitating troubled nursing homes and providing what they call better care at a profit.

Since 2003, the HHC has purchased 18 nursing facilities from South Bend to Evansville.

Locally, it owns nine different facilities that get thousands in federal Medicaid dollars.

All told, the net revenues in 2006 from long-term care were just shy of $6 million. But what are Marion County Taxpayers putting out?

"Not one thin dime of Marion County tax money goes to Valparaiso or those other homes. In fact the opposite occurs," the chief executive insisted.

"Over the last five years we've actually lowered the property taxes in Marion County that come to the Health & Hospital," said Gutwein.

HHC touts the Community Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 5600 E. 16th Street in Indianapolis as one of its success stories.

That facility garnered a perfect inspection survey from the state a year after HHC took over.

But it's a different story at Rosewalk Village of Indianapolis located at 1302 N. Lesley Avenue. That facility is currently the focus of a negligent death claim. Linda Ealy says her mother died in July 2005, from something that could and should have been prevented: Bedsores that led to a deadly sepsis infection of the liver.

Ealy says doctors told her, "The wound was big enough to have three fists [inside]."

In her estimation her mother was "So infected that they had not been taking care of her. If it was your mother, what would you do?"

Both the Attorney General and State Health officials investigated. They found violations, the facility addressed them and the case was closed.

HHC won't comment on pending legal matters, but Gutwein says he's proud of the agency's efforts to improve nursing home care statewide.

"We are Indiana people and we care about our Indiana residents. When you take a home that's that bad, it takes some time to change all the aspects of it," said Gutwein.

Officials from the Indiana State Department of Health officials were unavailable for comment on the Valparaiso facility and it's worst nursing home status.

HHC has spent $500,000 on improvements at the home and hired all new management.

American Senior Communities, based in Indianapolis, oversees daily operations.

This year, HHC expects to bring in $10 million in long term care revenue.

Indiana nursing home report cards