On the Friday before Labor Day weekend, Princeton Care Center, a for-profit nursing home in Princeton, New Jersey, notified its 72 elderly residents that they were closing, and that the building would need to be vacated within 12 hours!
For months, the owners of the Princeton Care Center had had trouble paying rent. The facility had seen declining profits, and the owners weren’t putting money aside for maintenance or building repairs. The building owner, which is not a person but a limited liability corporation, filed a lawsuit against the Center’s owners, claiming that it should be able to take the nursing homes’ operating license in order to satisfy its creditors. After this legal wrangling, and then after months of so-called monitoring by the New Jersey Department of Health (which did nothing as it watched this slow motion train wreck develop), it finally became clear that the nursing home could literally not pay its employees. At that point, the Center announced the closure to its stunned residents and their families, who complained vociferously as they scrambled to find their elderly relatives a place to stay and be cared for. This for-profit set-up screwed both the workers and the residents.
This episode is part of a larger nationwide trend of nursing homes dangerously close to shutting down because of their inability to make a profit and keep their services up to par. And this trend highlights an even larger and more fundamental problem – when the goal is profit, patient health, care and stability come second.
Stephen Crystal, a Rutgers University professor of social work who studies health care for the ageing, summed up the problem as he saw it: “The residents got caught in a battle between the landlord and operators, and they were playing games with people’s lives…The whole system of for-profit providers and under-resourced and under-empowered regulators is problematic.”
“Problematic” is putting it mildly. Enough said.