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'A crime, crime, crime, crime'

Squalid care homes owner fined 700G

Entrance to Villanova residence of Rosalind Lavin (inset), owner of personal-care homes deemed 'appalling' by U.S. attorney.
Entrance to Villanova residence of Rosalind Lavin (inset), owner of personal-care homes deemed 'appalling' by U.S. attorney.Read more

NEVER AGAIN, said the feds, and they meant it.

Never again will owner Rosalind Lavin nor the managers of her four personal-care centers in Philadelphia and Media allow more than 210 residents to live in what U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan called "appalling" conditions.

Never again will Lavin or her managers allow residents to lie in vomit or feces for days, unattended.

Never again will Lavin or her managers serve insufficient food to residents, like a slice of bologna and a piece of cheese between bread, and call it nutritious.

Never again will Lavin or her managers be allowed to ignore the handing out of medications, or fail to seek medical care when it's needed for the disabled, mentally handicapped and elderly.

Never again will she or her managers allow residents to wear inadequate or soiled clothing, or lie on filthy bed linens.

Never again will she or her managers allow the physically disabled, the mentally handicapped or the elderly to live in grossly inadequate, structurally unsafe and dangerous firetraps that she called housing.

And never again will Lavin be able to stuff her pockets and bank accounts with residents' Social Security and disability payments to fund her luxurious lifestyle - with a multimillion-dollar portfolio of fabulous homes in Villanova, Florida and New Jersey, and an aircraft - as alleged in her settlement agreement with the feds.

Even as Lavin - a licensed pilot - denied wrongdoing of the above listed infractions in her civil settlement yesterday, workers were painting the exterior of her posh 14-room mansion beige and pinkish- tan, near the swimming pool and tennis court in her gated Villanova estate, called "Lionsgate," adorned with benches, sculptures and a babbling brook.

There, workers are about to take on the massive task of painting the gutted interior of a first floor wing of the mansion, turning the walls into an elegant shade of beige and cream for her about-to-be renovated master-bedroom suite.

For more than eight years, Lavin, 65, and her late husband, Robert, denied to city, state and federal authorities that they were aware of what U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan called the "appalling" treatment of residents at her four personal-care homes, even after three homes were closed.

The last facility, Ivy Ridge Personal Care Center, on Ridge Avenue near Kingsley Street in Roxborough, which had two residents last month, must close on Aug. 10.

But now, the long-blond-haired Lavin must pay the feds $700,000 - a drop in the bucket to this multimillionaire - as part of the settlement.

Yesterday, she signed the settlement agreement to never again own or operate a patient-, personal- or residential-care facility, or run a program or facility that receives federal health-care funds.

Lavin owned three personal- care homes - or assisted-living facilities - in Philadelphia and one in Media, and Health Horizons, a management corporation that ran them, of which she and her late husband were the dominant shareholders.

Besides Ivy Ridge, the other facilities included: Conlyn, 16th and Conlyn streets, Fern Rock, and Thoroughgood, at 40th and Pine streets, West Philadelphia, both closed in September 2002; and Brookwood, 1027 Ridley Creek Road, Media, Delaware County, closed in September 2000.

Neither Lavin nor her attorney, Larry Besnoff, could be reached for comment.

Jadwiga Ruta, a Polish immigrant, still gets angry when she thinks about her mentally handicapped daughter's three-day stay in the early '90s at Ivy Ridge Personal Care Center, and about Rosalind Lavin.

"The people who live under her roof, they suffer," the elder Ruta, who now lives in Florida with her daughter, said of Lavin. "What she did was a crime, crime, crime, crime.

Ruta said Lavin and her late husband were "making themselves rich from the poor people and the handicapped people."

Her daughter had her to help her, Ruta said, but many of the elderly residents of the homes had no family.

Ruta said that she had paid the Lavins $1,000 for her daughter's care and that Lavin had refused to give it back. "I borrowed the money," Ruta said. "I really, really, really couldn't afford it. But I thought it would be good for her."

According to a lawsuit filed on the Rutas' behalf, Ruta placed her daughter, whom she declined to identify, at Ivy Ridge because Ruta, a now-retired teacher, had to work.

Her daughter, then 33, was at the personal-care center just three days when Ruta received a call saying that her daughter - who was incompetent - was either sick or "faking it," according to a lawsuit filed in August, 1992.

When Ruta rushed to the home, she found her daughter screaming and crying, with a diaper full of feces. The area around her was also covered with feces.

Mrs. Ruta stayed with her daughter for several hours, trying to clean her up, and no one from the home assisted her. She told the Ivy Ridge staff that her daughter was ill, but none of the staff responded or even called for medical assistance, acording to the suit. They didn't even provide hot water for a cup of tea, she said.

After several hours, the mother drove her daughter to a nearby hospital, where she was diagnosed with viral gastroenteritis, a fecal impaction and dehydration.

Common Pleas Court upheld a jury verdict that Ivy Ridge was guilty of neglect. The young woman was hospitalized for three days, and then her mother took her home.

Personal-care homes are assisted-living facilities where residents are helped with bathing and dressing, and the taking of medications, but don't need the kind of round-the-clock, skilled care provided in nursing homes.

State regulators notified Lavin in October 2006 that they intended to close Ivy Ridge because she had failed to address repeated violations.

In August and October 2006, for example, Ivy Ridge was cited for not having enough staff to provide at least one hour of personal care per day to its mobile residents.

Some residents did not have adequate mattresses to sleep on, or lacked blinds in their rooms.

Staff were not trained in first aid or CPR, and the home did not have a system in place to identify and document medication errors, the state said.

Karen Kroh, the state's chief regulator of personal-care homes, said in an e-mail yesterday that Ivy Ridge is no longer operating as a personal-care home, but as of last month two personal-care residents still lived there, as did two or three "independent occupants."

Meehan said that residents of many personal-care homes throughout Pennsylvania are "uniquely vulnerable" because of their mental and physical disabilities and because they are dependent on others to care for them.

He pointed out that personal-care homes are not as tightly regulated as nursing homes by the state Department of Public Welfare.

According to Meehan, there were 1,500 personal-care homes in the state last year and only 37 state inspectors. He said that 1,200 homes were at one time or another operating without a license.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Welfare said yesterday that the department has since hired five more inspectors and that all of the state's personal-care homes are operating with either a license or a conditional one.

About 50,000 Pennsylvanians live in personal-care homes. *