"You go there to die." Family describes nightmare getting uncle out of nursing home.

Posted at 6:52 PM, Sep 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-28 18:52:35-04

On April 2, Ron Arnold was admitted to Safire Care Rehabilitation of the Northtowns on Sheridan Drive. He needed rehab after a fall. His family had no idea he would essentially be stuck there until August 22, despite months of trying to get him out.

"It's like a sequence of lies on purpose to delay the process or sabotage the process and cause chaos," Gregory Mikolajczak, Arnold's nephew and healthcare proxy, said.

The plan, originally, was to bring Arnold home after he finished rehab. Mikolajczak told Safire's social worker if his uncle needed to be placed in long term care, they had another WNY facility already lined up.

But, according to Mikolajczak, Safire moved Arnold into their own long term care without notifying Mikolajczak, who, as healthcare proxy, was charged with making medical decisions on behalf of his uncle.

"If you questioned anything it was most unwelcome," Arnold said, describing his time at Safire. "It was quite touch and go several times with some of the staff."

Those concerns, along with Mikolajczak's assessment of the cleanliness and treatment provided to his uncle, made their desire to get him out all the more urgent.

"You're worried about him and what are you going to do 300 miles away? You have to keep coming up. It really was a time. My heart hurt," Mikolajczak said. He was traveling from his home in Pennsylvania to help his uncle.

When Mikolajczak learned his uncle was in long term care at Safire in late April, he started the process of transferring Arnold to a separate facility. Long term care is not covered by Arnold's insurance and the new place would be more affordable for the family.

Despite having a doctor's clearance and the new facility ready to house Arnold, Mikolajczak says the social worker at Safire would not fill out necessary paperwork and schedule a final medical test for discharge, intentionally delaying the process and holding his uncle there for months longer than necessary.

In the middle of this process, Arnold had to be admitted to ECMC for dehydration. Mikolajczak feared the worst should he be unable to get his uncle out.

"That they're going to kill him," he said. "Due to lack of nourishment and hydration and air conditioning and care. I've been told by his friends and stuff that that's a last resort place to go. You go there to die."

Eventually, the family did get Arnold out. He says he is much happier at his new home and is settling in well.

The final bill from Safire totaled $46,959.14. According to Mikolajczak, had he been able to transfer his uncle before the initiation of long term care, he would have saved about $43,000.

The New York State Department of Health gives Safire Northtowns a one-star rating, its lowest possible. Between June 2014 and May 2018, state inspections turned up 94 citations, nearly triple the state average of 33 in that same period of time. You can read the state's evaluation on the facility and see detailed reports of citations here.

7 Eyewitness News reached out to Safire Care Rehabilitation of the Northtowns for comment on this story. A staff member told 7 Eyewitness News reporter Josh Bazan by phone that a manager would call back Friday afternoon. No call has been received.

The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team investigated a different nursing home operated by the same ownership group in February. That home was Safire Care in South Buffalo. The I-Team found a pattern of serious mistakes and dangerous living conditions. You can read that report here.

Have a news tip, question or comment?


Take WKBW Everywhere, on all your devices.  Download below!

Phone or Tablet: Apple, Android
Set-top Device: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Alexa

Personalize your news, get the latest 7 First Alert Forecast, and watch 7 Eyewitness News video wherever, whenever.

Learn more here about what 7 Eyewitness News provides on all these devices.