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Workers, officials want feds to investigate St. Louis nursing home closure

Former workers and union staff gather on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, outside of Northview Village Nursing Home on North Kingshighway. The nursing home was abruptly shuttered with little notice given to staff or residents.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Former workers gather outside Northview Village nursing home in St. Louis shortly after owners shut the facility in mid-December.

Union activists, politicians and former employees of the Northview Village nursing home are calling for a federal investigation into the abrupt closing of the St. Louis facility.

It’s been more than three weeks since the north St. Louis facility closed Dec. 15 and moved its approximately 170 residents to other nursing homes overnight.

The closure left laid-off employees scrambling to find money one week before Christmas. Some residents' families could not find their loved ones for days. One former resident, who may be without needed schizophrenia medication, is missing after walking away from the facility, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

During the rally Monday outside Brentwood-based Healthcare Accounting Services, which operated the facility, workers said they still have not been paid wages for time worked. They claim the nursing home’s administrators also owe them for banked PTO and union dues health insurance payments that never were forwarded to intended organizations.

“We are tired of hearing these excuses: ‘Oh, we're gonna pay this Friday. Oh, we're gonna pay you next Friday. We're gonna pay at the end of the month,’” said Lenny Jones, state director of the Service Employees International Union, which represents many former workers. “The solution is to pay that money now.”

Owners and operators did not explain to workers why they shut down the facility beyond citing issues with payroll, former employees said.

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, said she has asked U.S. Health and Senior Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to investigate Healthcare Accounting Services.

“We can't let another abrupt closure like Northview Village happen again,” Bush told the workers. “We also can't let Healthcare Accounting Services get away with not paying its workers and evading accountability for its former residents."

Bush wants federal authorities to determine if the owners have violated any laws, including one that requires employers to notify workers 60 days before large-scale layoffs and another that requires facility officials contact nursing home residents and immediate family members before moving residents to other facilities.

“With the trust of our broader communities and the lives and livelihoods of residents and staff at stake, it’s critical that those involved be investigated and held accountable for any wrongdoing,” Bush wrote in a letter to Becerra.

According to Medicare records, a Chicago-based couple owns two 26% ownership stakes in Northview Village, along with others who own smaller percentages.

CMS documents show one of the owners, Marc Suissa, also has a stake in Grand Manor, a nursing home in the Grand Center neighborhood, as well as Elmwood Nursing and Rehab in Maryville, Illinois.

Healthcare Accounting Services carried out the day-to-day administration of the facility, including payroll, Jones said.

A representative from the Brentwood company could not be reached for comment.

Officials from the company have now informed employees they expect to pay them by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, said Carolyn Hawthorne, a registered nurse who worked at the facility and has filed a lawsuit against Northview Village on behalf of the former employees.

“They have failed to pay health care premiums on the workers. They have failed to pay time off. They have failed to pay [for] the week that the facility was abruptly shut down,” she said. “This is St. Louis. This is the Show-Me State. Show me our money!”

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.