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UPDATE: Scranton nursing facility lacked power, residents relocated

Residents of Mountain View Nursing and Rehabilitation were moved to other facilities over the weekend after Scranton's Code Enforcement Office deemed the facility "unsafe."
Tom Riese
Residents of Mountain View Nursing and Rehabilitation were moved to other facilities over the weekend after Scranton's Code Enforcement Office deemed the facility "unsafe."

Residents of a Scranton nursing and rehabilitation facility were relocated over the weekend after the city declared the facility “unsafe.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said Mountain View Care and Rehabilitation Center did not have “adequate power” to operate the facility, its fire alarms were not working and its sprinkler system was not in compliance with regulations.

“The conditions at the facility are insufficient to maintain the health, safety and welfare of the facility residents,” the department wrote in a letter to Chaim Scheinbaum, who is listed as the manager of the facility.

The department said the 85 residents of the facility in South Scranton started relocating on Friday evening. By Saturday, the department said all residents were settled in nearby facilities to “receive the ongoing care they need.”

The City of Scranton Code Enforcement Office declared Mountain View Nursing and Rehabilitation “unsafe for human occupancy or use,” according to a statement.

Chris Hughes, communications director for the City of Scranton, said the Department of Health alerted the city of the safety issues at the facility, then managed the emergency closure once code enforcement made its declaration.

The Department of Health said the facility had been on a provisional license prior to the emergency closure. In the letter dated May 31, the department also expressed concern over the facility’s financial status.

“The current temporary manager has on several occasions made the department aware of pending Sheriff Sales at the facility,” the letter states. “Further, the temporary manager has provided the department with information related to the nonpayment of numerous vendors, tax obligations and services required for the operation of the facility.”

The center was empty Monday morning.

In a statement, Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging Director Sara McDonald said they were not informed of the closure before residents started relocating, but the state was not required to inform the agency.

"As soon as we learned of the closure, we sent our local AAA on-call staff out to assess the situation early Saturday morning," she said. "By the time we arrived, all 85 residents had been relocated."

McDonald said the agency will be a resource for the families and relocated residents. They compiled a list of the 11 care centers where residents were moved. Most are in Lackawanna County, but residents ended up in Wayne, Carbon and Luzerne counties as well.

Pennsylvania Department of Aging Secretary Jason Kavulich said he had received "calls over the weekend from friends about their parents and loved ones and the Department of Aging has taken an active role in ensuring their safety."

"The Departments of Health, Aging, and Human Services worked together with local support from the County Emergency Management Team and the Area Agency on Aging’s local Ombudsman, responding quickly and working together through the night Friday into Saturday morning to move patients to an appropriate setting. At this time, all residents have been safely relocated,” Kavulich said.

Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Health Care Association, said Mountain View was not a member of PHCA, but its emergency closure is concerning.

“Emergency evacuations in general, that is a last resort,” he said. “It’s very rare that we see that across Pennsylvania.”

Shamberg said PHCA members were on hand Friday evening to help transfer residents to new facilities.

“Just in the last two months we’ve seen two emergency evacuations for different reasons,” he said. “It speaks to a larger trend that providers are unable to make it work, and it’s putting our residents and our staff in a much more vulnerable position.”

Sarah Scinto is the local host of Morning Edition on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.

You can email Sarah at sarahscinto@wvia.org
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