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Uproar Brewing Over Problem-Plagued Boerum Hill Nursing Home

After change in ownership, family's and residents complain about a host of issues.

On March 27, an 85-year-old female resident of the Hopkins Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare on Dean Street in Boerum Hill went missing for four hours. The resident, who has dementia, breast cancer, a coronary artery disease and has suffered from a stroke, was found by her family at her previous home in the Bronx, and was returned to the center.

In a report following the incident, the State Department of Health gave Hopkins a “substandard quality of care” rating, and called on the facility to “ensure that the resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as is possible.”

According to the Health Department report, this resident had a history of “wandering” and needed to be “monitored closely.” The center had failed to monitor the resident, the report said. By April 29, the state deemed the situation "corrected."

The incident occurred just days after the facility, formerly run by St. Vincent's Catholic Charities and known as the Bishop Mugavero Center for Geriatric Care, was transferred to Hopkins, a for-profit company.

When the center changed ownership, residents, family members and the community weren't sure what to expect.

But many said they weren't prepared for what has transpired. According to a handful of residents and family members, with the change in ownership has come deficient care, issues involving cleanliness of the facilities, poor quality of food and a less-than-hospitable environment. And even though the center's administrator says the accusations are baseless, the community is beginning to push back.

Following the incident with the missing resident, Hopkins management closed the popular outdoor front porch, and only allowed residents to enjoy the outdoors outside the rear entrance, adjacent to the parking lot. In the summer, tall iron bars were installed around the front porch, and residents were given access again.

But both the community and residents are up in arms about the bars.

On a recent morning, half a dozen residents were sitting on the porch behind the bars, some in wheelchairs, others with walkers.

“This is like a jail, it isn’t the same,” said one resident who wished to remain nameless for fear of repercussions. “I hate it.”

When the bars went up, community members complained on the Boerum Hill listserv. Some wondered how the jail-like appearance would make the residents feel, others wondered why such drastic measures were needed.

Margaret Cusack, president of the Hoyt Street Association, lives across the street from the center.

“It used to be relatives would come and visit and it [would be] a place to chat, to enjoy being in that space,” she said. “Others walking by would say hello, be friendly, dogs would befriend the residents… It was a wonderful way to connect with neighbors.”

Cusack says the friendliness is now gone. With the bars keeping the residents on one side and the neighbors on the other, she said, “it’s depressing.”

When the patio was first closed to residents, Cusack, Howard Kolins of the Boerum Hill Association and community member Ed Kopel, met with Hopkins management. Cusack said they knew the open porch was seen as a liability to Hopkins, but they wanted to assist the center in finding an “artful way” to increase safety.

“We put our heads together, sent suggestions and sketches… We were concerned it would look like a jail,” Cusack said.  “We had hoped they would listen to us, but they went ahead with their own idea on how to deal with it.”

“It’s barren out there,” she added.

Jo Anne Simon, Democratic District Leader of the 52nd Assembly District and a long-time Boerum Hill resident, said it was a "shame."

"Many facilities are able to supervise wandering patients with less intrusive means," Simon said. "I am very disappointed that the Hopkins Center chose to ignore the concerns expressed by the community before the fence was installed. It looks and feels pretty overwhelming.”

In addition to the bars at the center, there have been complaints about the quality of the care patients and residents are receiving.

Joe Romano, a long-time Boerum Hill resident, checked his mother into Hopkins for rehab in  after a bout of pneumonia landed her in the hospital. Romano said he would call the center and visit often to find out how his mother was doing, and would never get calls back. He called the experience “frustrating.”

“The communication was really bad. It was a struggle to figure out what kind of rehab she was even receiving," Romano said, adding, “There were too many patients there, and not enough staff it seemed."

After three weeks, Romano and his mother’s doctor decided to take her out of the center.

“We just wanted to get her out of there,” he said.

According to State Department of Health records, Hopkins has received 20 Standard Health and Life Safety Code Deficiencies citations in the past three years, compared to an average of 24 statewide.

A Carroll Gardens resident with a family member who has been living at Hopkins for a few years said when visiting the center it was always under-staffed and dirty. On one visit, there were feces in the main sitting area, the person said.

“It’s a shame,” the person, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “It’s not being taken care of as it was."

The person also said on multiple visits to the center, the family member was unhappy and fearful, and reported having missed medications at least a couple of times. The family member was unable to get an aid to help.

According to multiple people interviewed, Hopkins has cut down on its staff, and now outsources laundry, meaning residents get clean clothes less often. The food quality has reportedly also declined.

A resident of 6 years, who also requested anonymity, said the food was “bad” and that activities, including Bingo night, were also cut.

“Everything is worse,” the resident said.

Patti Sullivan, a Boerum Hill resident of 19 years, has been talking with residents about issues at the center for months.

“You’ve got real problems here. There are residents who aren’t happy,” she said. “It’s not good for anybody.”

Hopkins Center Administrator Susan Rice took issue with the complaints about the porch, saying the bars were "just a fence."

"Our responsibility is to create a safe environment for these residents," she said. "I never intended to alienate anyone from the community."

Rice said any member of the community was welcome to come in the front entrance of Hopkins, on Pacific Street, and visit with residents.

"No one has ever tried," she said.

Rice also said the porch accessibility is greater now than it was before Hopkins became the new managers of the nursing home. Previously, the porch was closed at 6 p.m., she said, and now residents can "come and go as they please."

Rice said she had not heard of any complaints about residents and patients receiving poor care. She confirmed the facility's laundry is now "subcontracted," but said the clothes come back "pressed and hung." And she challenged the claim that there are fewer nurses, asserting that there has actually been an increase in nursing staff. She also said there has been no change in food service.

"Of course there's going to be complaints on a daily basis," she said. "It's hard to please everybody."

Nevertheless, the community is organizing. A neighborhood meeting with concerned residents is being held in the coming days, and Assemblywoman Joan Millman, D-Brooklyn, has a meeting with Rice next week.

Lynnette Rivera September 29, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Hi, is this going to be an open meeting because I am interested as to what is going to be said. I just recently had my father transferred there as he was in the Monsey area & it was difficult to visit with him. I have not been happy with what I've seen so far & I think family members should be involved in this meeting. What a shame, that we as family members, cannot find a home to take care of our family members. Not only that, but afraid to bring to their attention the dissatisfaction we have with them without our families suffering the repercussions.
maria pagano September 29, 2011 at 02:25 PM
Georgia, There are pieces of your article that don't make sense. The list of complaints is too consistent w/ cost-cutting, stream-lining for business purposes, not for the health and benefit of residents, whatever category. I am releived to hear that there is push back- the Mugavero had always been a welcoming, decent place that we knew was reputable and well run. I don't understand- How can you have more nurses and yet have residents worried about getting their meds? What's the ratio of nurse to patient? The laundry had better be delivered pressed on a hanger- but from what I understand, folks don't keep a lot of clothes. So, should a resident need soemthing to wear and it's been sent out, that leaves nothing clearn. That's got to make a person uncomfortable at least, nervous at worst. So what if their clothes are delivered pressed and hung a day or two later? The tall wrought iron fencing securing the front veranda is the first thing you see when you walk up the street. Sorry- it looks stark and the deck has been empty every time I pass by. Fences are notoriously convenient from a surveillance point of view- they don't make good neighbors, tho. I would think the Hopkins admin would want to build on the reputation of the MCenter, rather than degrade it- if only to keep the value of their investment, not to mention the importance of the people who are in their care. Keep asking questions. We all want the best possible care here. Best, Maria
Barbara Haggen September 30, 2011 at 06:16 PM
After reading the article posted on patch.com I feel that I should share my view about Hopkins Center. My mother has been a resident there for over a year, which mean she was there during the transition of ownership. From the stand point of both my mother and I, we feel as though the new ownership has brought nothing but positive changes to the facility. We both attended the barbecue that was held over the summer on the outside porch. I felt that the design of the fence was very elegant and matched well with the surrounding community. Those that did attend were spoken to by the owner as well as the administrator, which was very comforting to me and my mother. After the lunch we were all given a tour of the new rehabilitation center that was built. I was shocked when I saw the room because it is absolutely stunning. We were also told that construction will continue as they are going to begin remodeling all of the floors. It seems as though they are looking to make improvements to the facility, which we look forward to. I must say that everyone that works there is friendly and inviting. The administrative staff are easily accessible if needed as well. I understand that change is very difficult for people to deal with.  When you are in my position and have to place a loved one in a long-term care facility it may not be easy but we must embrace change especially when it is good.  Thank you,  Barbara Haggen 
Rachel E October 03, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Wow, this article further proves that there will always be negative people and naysayers in every situation! My aunt is a resident at Hopkins Center and is so happy there. Every time I go and visit her I find her clean, happy, well fed and in good spirits which can't be too easy while living in a nursing home. I find the nursing and administrative staff to be extremely kind and helpful. All of my aunts concerns are addressed quickly, efficiently and satisfactorily. I attended the barbecue with her and was really impressed with the new owners, they seemed to really care about the residents and their needs. Not ton mention that the new rehab room and beauty salon look like they are straight out of a magazine! The planned innovations that they are starting look like a 5 star hotel, I almost wanted to tell them to reserve a room or myself in a few years. Look we all know that nursing homes aren't always the most pleasant places in the world but from what I've seen and observed during my visits t Hopkins I was pretty impressed. Compared to the home that we transferred my aunt from (another place in Brooklyn) my family and I are very pleased. Everyone is so friendly and always says hello and gives a big smile. Regarding the fence, i actually think it's a testament to how much they care about e safety of the residents. If the neighbors want to come by and visit, which I think would be very much appreciated, why can't they use the front door?
Gregg February 10, 2013 at 06:17 PM
I think "Rachel E" is a shill, perhaps a fictitious name made up to post a glowing report on this facility. I recently had experience with a resident there, and the list of deficiencies include laundry that is take to be washed and never comes back (multiple times, despite our having alerting management constantly!), also horrible food, and orderlies that are so rough in washing patients that one described it as akin to "having clothes torn off my body". Does this sound like a "well run" facility?

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