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Skyline Healthcare: Scenes from the collapse of a nursing-home operator

Workers said chaos has subsided at the facilities since temporary management was imposed, but some said they have been left with no health insurance despite having paid for it through payroll deductions.

Wyndmoor Hills Health Care & Rehabilitation Center is one of nine Skyline Healthcare facilities taken over by the Pennsylvania Department of Health on April 27 after Skyline ran into financial trouble. Wyndmoor Hills is shown here in an image from a brochure.
Wyndmoor Hills Health Care & Rehabilitation Center is one of nine Skyline Healthcare facilities taken over by the Pennsylvania Department of Health on April 27 after Skyline ran into financial trouble. Wyndmoor Hills is shown here in an image from a brochure.Read moreWyndmoor Hills Health Care and Rehabilitation Center

A nursing-home administrator in a supermarket buying 20 loaves of bread for residents, workers forming a chain to pass food trays up three flights because the elevator was broken, and a manager handing out his credit card and pass code to a van driver who needed gas to transport patients.

Those are just some of the events that happened at Skyline Healthcare nursing homes in Pennsylvania as the New Jersey company neared financial collapse, as described on Monday by administrative organizers with SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, a union that represents 320 workers at four Skyline facilities.

Skyline agreed to step aside on April 27 at nine of Skyline's facilities in Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health installed Complete Healthcare Resources as a temporary manager late last month. Over the course of the last week, Complete Healthcare Resources, which is based in Dresher and is know as CHC, appears to have restored some semblance of order, according to employees.

"Members are very relieved and thankful because they feel that they're going to get some help now," said Chris Sloat, an SEIU Healthcare administrative organizer who works with members at Skyline facilities in Lancaster and Reading, but the experience of Skyline running the seven former Golden Living facilities starting in February 2017 has been unsettling for SEIU members, which include nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses.

"They are nervous about being taken over again. This wasn't a good experience for them," said Sloat, who spoke with the Lancaster administrator about the bread purchase on April 30 and witnessed a manager hand over the credit card, also at Lancaster Care & Rehabilitation Center.

CHC also stepped in at Willow Terrace in Philadelphia and Wyndmoor Hills Health Care & Rehabilitation Center in Montgomery County, which Skyline had owned for years before adding the Golden Living facilities.

A similar collapse of Skyline's operations has been underway in the Midwest since March.

The Pennsylvania health department announced the appointment of a temporary manager last Wednesday, saying it had "confirmed that the company could no longer fiscally operate the facilities."

However, the state had received complaints since last summer that at least one Skyline facility, Rosemont Care & Rehabilitation Center, was not paying insurance premiums, utilities, taxes, and vendors, including the medical transportation company, according to Wendy Johnson, who said Monday that she worked in the business office at Rosemont for a year until February, when she was fired. She said she didn't even ask why she was let go because she didn't care at that point.

Johnson said that, last fall, she sent a list of all the vendors who weren't getting paid to a state health department surveyor. "She never called any of them," Johnson said. "There were 50 names and phone numbers on there."

Department of Health officials could not confirm or deny the information.

While she still worked at Rosemont, Johnson said, she went to the dentist for a teeth cleaning and was told she had to pay because she didn't have insurance even though the money was being taken out of her paycheck every other week. An employee at another facility said he was slammed with a $900 dental bill from work done in December because Skyline wasn't paying the premiums.

Now, no one who works in the Rosemont facility has any health insurance, despite ongoing payroll deductions, said Julie Dixon, who works at the facility as a cook, on Monday. A Skyline spokesman said it had endeavored to provide good-quality coverage to all employees who qualified.

Even as vendors were not getting paid and deductions were coming out of employees' paychecks but not being paid to insurers, Skyline's owner, Joseph Schwartz, was collecting $2,500 from every biweekly payroll, Johnson said.

"Normally, if you own your own company, you're the last person to get paid, not the first. Now, I don't think he was really doing anything, but he was making sure he got paid," Johnson said.

The Skyline spokesman said the payments stopped.

"As it became evident that the company was experiencing financial issues," a Skyline spokesman said, "Mr. Schwartz was not, in fact, seeing revenue, but was making sure that there was enough to operate until the receiverships were adequately in place."