Updated: Rep. Higgins urges federal review for Niagara Rehab nursing home

Could force nursing home to improve or close
Posted at 12:58 PM, Dec 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-01 18:29:39-05

Rep. Brian Higgins is urging the federal government to step in and force changes at a Niagara Falls nursing home that was the subject of a 7 Eyewitness News investigation.

The Buffalo Congressman, in a letter sent Thursday to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, faulted Niagara Rehabilitation & Nursing for the "disturbing yo-yo history of compliance found in documented reporting and heart-wrenching personal experiences."

He urged an expedited review that would determine whether Niagara Rehab should be enrolled in the Special Focus Facility program, which forces nursing home owners to improve care, sell the facilities or lose the ability to accept Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The program also mandates twice the normal amount of inspections by the State Health Department, which has opened its own investigation into the nursing home. 

Higgins said his concerns about the nursing home were brought to his attention after 7 Eyewitness News' original investigation and subsequent stories about a death and missing person at the nursing home. 

Higgins cites state inspection figures that show for the last four years, it:

  • Received three times the average number of complaints (130) than the statewide average (41).
  • Received nearly six times the amount of deficiencies per 100 beds (15) than the statewide average (2.6).
  • Received 105 total citations (standard and life safety code), three times the state average (35).

"While the report does recognize corrections made, it must be noted that many of these deficiencies returned on an annual basis," he wrote.  

Read the full letter below:

In response, Niagara Rehab released the following statement:

"Niagara Rehabilitation & Nursing Center is currently undergoing its annual survey by the New York State Department of Health. We will implement changes that are recommended in order to improve care at the facility.  We are committed to providing a warm and welcoming home for our residents where they receive the utmost quality care."

Are you a current or former worker of Niagara Rehab or another nursing home? Do you know of a nursing home whose conditions need to be investigated? Email Charlie Specht at Charlie.Specht@wkbw.com.