WESTON, Wis. (WSAW) -- Loved ones of residents affected by a nursing home that suddenly closed in Weston two weeks ago said they had either little or no notice.
Atrium Post Acute Care of Weston closed January 25, leaving 28 residents without a place to go. Court documents and federal inspection reports show the senior care company has not been able to pay its bills; it is more than $13.5 million in debt, which was beginning to affect residents' care.
On January 21, North Central Health Care Adult Protective Services was notified that Atrium in Weston would close. In just four days, NCHC worked to relocate 25 of the Atrium residents to facilities within central Wisconsin. The state's Family Care agency handled three others. Nine of the 28 residents were placed at NCHC's Mount View Care Center in Wausau.
Jessica Meadows, NCHC's communications and marketing manager said many local nursing homes were quick to provide help and respond. NCHC also encouraging employees of Atrium to seek employment at North Central Health Care.
The daughter of one of the residents lives in California. She said she learned about the closure through a Facebook post after her father was already transferred to a new care facility.
"It was very stressful for me, for a few hours, I'm wondering what the heck happened to my dad? Did they just throw him out on the street? I had no idea, I couldn't find out any answers," Jane Johnson told 7 Investigates.
Her dad's guardian who lives nearby told 7 Investigates she initially learned about the closure on the news. She said she was in contact with the Atrium facility almost daily. She was officially informed by Adult Protective Services, not Atrium, that the facility was closing and they were moving him to a new care facility. That was just the day before the actual move.
State law requires care facilities to provide the guardian 30 days written notice prior to relocating a resident.
In August, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services inspected the facility. The inspector said in the report that the company did not ensure enough money was available to provide safe and efficient management of the facility. Food stopped being delivered and the nursing home administrator told the inspector were told by the corporation to purchase food with pre-paid debit cards. The administrator said that was because the company did not pay the delivery company.
The main phone line was also shut off and the administrator said the facility had to direct families, resident representatives, and physicians to call another line.
Shortly after that inspection, the loan company for Atrium filed a civil case in Wood County, as Atrium has locations in that county as well. The judge appointed attorney Michael Polsky of Beck, Chaet, Bamberger & Polsky, S.C. to be a Receiver, the person who will take charge of the company's assets to ensure the company can pay its $13.5 million debt.
Between September, 2018 and January, 2019, seemingly endless claims of unpaid services were filed with the court, along with claims on behalf of the company for debts families and residents owe the facilities.
Mid-January, Polsky filed an emergency motion to relocate residents and close the Weston and Appleton facilities. He reported the company lost more than $2 million in just four months, with those two facilities losing the most.
Both facilities have not paid rent in that same time. He said the landowner, who is the same land owner for both locations, even listed the site for sale, however Polsky said he did not believe there have been any offers submitted.
He said Atrium has no funds to pay rent to those facilities. The Appleton and Weston locations also have the most openings for residents and staff: averaging 33 residents for a 128-bed facility, and 14 open staff positions.
He claimed the facilities were unsustainable and that the current trajectory of the facilities would make them unable to provide quality care to residents and put a strain on the 32 remaining facilities.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Attorney General Josh Kaul asked the judge for an injunction on that motion, blocking Polsky from closing any facilities or transferring residents. They said relocating residents this quickly violates state law that protects nursing home residents from experiencing trauma from transferring. They said it would also cause panic for residents, staff, and loved ones.
"In addition to the motion filings, DHS has received word from a provider indicating that neither the floor nurses nor the residents had been made aware of the pending closures," DHS attorneys stated in court documents.
DHS also claimed it learned that the loan company would no longer Chilton and Neenah facilities as well.
Shortly after DHS and Kaul asked for an injunction, Polsky filed an emergency motion to surrender the Weston, Appleton, Neenah, and Chilton properties to DHS. He stated the loan company was no longer going to fund operations at those four locations, including during Polsky's 90-day relocation plan.
January 24, the day before the four facilities ultimately closed, the judge granted the injunction prohibiting the facilities from closing and the residents from being transferred.
7 Investigates has reached out to Atrium and Polsky numerous times, but neither have responded.