Embattled Nursing Home Stays Open Under Murky Circumstances

Above: Sea View Nursing Home in Bolongo Bay, St. Thomas. [hr gap=”1″]

ST. THOMAS — The doors to the Virgin Islands’ only private nursing home remain open, five weeks after being cut off from federal Medicare funds. This in spite of a change in posture by the VI government, which told a judge they were no longer interested in rescuing Sea View Nursing Home.

This shift came about at the same time that a private corporation signaled interest in buying Sea View.

The announcement came in the latest filing, in a breach of contract lawsuit between Sea View and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Jacobs and Attorney General Claude Walker told the court the proposed takeover would cost too much. ” … the government of the Virgin Islands has made a determination that it is not in a financial position to execute the proposed lease with Sea View Nursing Home (sic) as it does not have an appropriation of $1,200,000.00 for the rental payments and other funds to make necessary repairs and improvements to Sea View as required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS),” the document said.

For that reason, the VI government would take no further action in the Sea View case, Jacobs said. The filing submitted Aug. 29 was the last one since the parties appeared at an evidentiary hearing before Gomez on Aug. 12.

At that time the judge said without a greater response by the government, the breach of contract challenge would likely end in a termination ruling.

The prospects of Sky Line Healthcare taking over Sea View became the best offer out there after Aug. 29. Attempts by stjohntradewinds.com to reach Michael Schwarts of the New Jersey-based company, to verify its interest, were not successful.

“He’s not in the office today,” said a woman who answered the phone at the Wood Bridge, NJ headquarters who identified herself as Pamela.

Lawyers representing the original owner, Dr. Alfred Heath, are using the purchasing bid to buy more time in District Court. Attorney Mark Hodge submitted a brief to Judge Curtis Gomez, asking for another hearing.

Hodge said it would be worth the time to review the due diligence Sky Line Healthcare does as they decide whether buying Sea View would be a good deal.

But a detail appearing in recent press reports question whether the government can back away from the Sea View case. One report, appearing in a daily publication, said the nursing home’s business license expired Aug. 30.

Horace Graham, director of licensing at the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs did not respond to a phone inquiry about the status of the Sea View license. If the report is confirmed, it marks the third setback for the nursing home and the 19 people depending on it for their care.

Unresolved problems have left Sea View decertified, bereft of federal funds and without proper licensure.

The head of the 31st Legislature Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services, Kurt Vialet, said he’d like to know more. “This is the first I’ve heard about the business license expiring,” Vialet said.

The health committee chairman said he’s been trying to reach out to Human Services Commissioner Vivian Ebbesen-Fludd. But Gov. Kenneth Mapp fired Fludd on Aug. 26. Government House offered no explanation for the dismissal.

The lawmaker says he will now renew his inquiry with nominated Human Services Commissioner Anita Roberts.