The latest chapter in Skyline Heathcare saga

Investigates

Thursday night we’re bringing you a new chapter in the ongoing investigation into a company that took over more than a dozen South Dakota nursing homes and didn’t pay their bills.

Disaster for the senior residents was adverted, but former Skyline employees are still paying the price. We’re following up on a KELOLAND News investigation we began in 2018.

Skyline Healthcare took over Golden Living Centers in South Dakota on January 1, 2017. Golden Living, retained ownership of the property and buildings and leased them to Skyline.

Skyline was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the 19 South Dakota facilities.

But a new administrator at the facility in Arlington knew almost immediately that something wasn’t right.

“We were probably three to four months into it and vendors started calling and asking for payment. We were submitting all of our invoices to accounts payable, expecting them to be paid and then we’re getting credit calls from the creditors and some of the accounts were frozen until we received payment,” former Skyline Healthcare Administrator Charles Johnson said.

In April of 2018, Skyline Healthcare notified the State it was out of money and its South Dakota facilities only had enough food and medical supplies to last for a week. 

And this kind of thing was happening all over the country–in nine states to be exact–where Skyline was running nursing homes. 

“The revenue was coming in, but where was it being applied to? That was the question. If our bills weren’t being paid, what’s going on? Where’s the money going?” Johnson said.

To this day, that question remains to be answered. But our investigation revealed that Joseph Schwartz, Skyline’s owner, had a history of not paying his bills. He had been sued in several states–even before Skyline took over the homes in South Dakota.

The State doesn’t take any responsibility for the fact that Skyline was allowed to take ownership of the homes in South Dakota. The Department of Health says it’s all up the feds to approve ownership changes when it comes to nursing homes.

“We do not have anyone available for an interview. South Dakota has not implemented any changes to our state laws regarding changes in ownership/operation of nursing homes. However, under South Dakota’s current laws, a state license cannot be issued until the change of ownership has been approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and their Fiscal Intermediary. In addition, in its regulatory role, the Department works daily with providers to ensure that safe, high-quality care is provided to nursing home residents.“

DERRICK HASKINS, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, SOUTH DAKOTA DEPT. OF HEALTH

We’ve reached out to several state and federal government agencies to find out if they’re doing anything any differently since the Skyline debacle when it comes to vetting potential nursing home ownership.

After Skyline backed out of running South Dakota’s homes, Golden Living took them back until a new owner could be found.

Avantara took over in July of this year.

This story has many layers to it.

Schwartz and his family members still own homes across the country. That has former Skyline employees worried about what could happen with those facilities.

“I think the next wave of victims is coming. I applaud you for staying on this case and I hope we can stop that from happening,” former Redfield Care and Rehab employee, Theresa Dante said.

Employees of Skyline in South Dakota say the company took their hard-earned money for insurance premiums, but never paid for the insurance. Many of them now have medical bills, which should have been covered, piling up.

Coming up Thursday at 10 p.m. in our KELOLAND News investigation, “Benefit Betrayal,” we find out just how bad the problem is and what, if any, recourse these former Skyline employees may have.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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