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Northport VA nursing home ranks low on new federal government survey

The Northport VA Medical Center houses the nursing

The Northport VA Medical Center houses the nursing home. Credit: Chuck Fadely

Long Island's VA nursing home scored low in a new government survey of veterans nursing homes nationwide, receiving two of five stars for overall performance.

The 139-bed Community Living Center, at the VA Medical Center in Northport, falls in roughly the bottom third of the 133 homes reviewed annually by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which made the ratings public for the first time this year.

VA officials awarded five stars to 34 homes and a single star to 11 homes. Of the other homes, 39 earned four stars, 19 received three stars and 29, including the Northport home, wound up with two stars. A home in Montana received no overall rating, which the VA didn't explain. 

Two other VA nursing homes in the area, the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx and the St. Albans Community Living Center in Queens, each received four stars.

The VA rates its nursing homes in three categories: staff-to-patient ratios; the home's performance during unannounced site visits; and quality, which includes such measures as patients' health progress and the percentage of patients treated with antipsychotic medicines. The Northport home received five stars for staffing, two stars for quality and one star in the unannounced site visits category.

Last year, the Northport home also received two stars for overall performance. Of the other homes, 71 saw no change in their overall scores, 60 improved their numbers and one received a lower rating. 

The Northport home is part of the Northport VA Medical Center, which has been led for the past year by Scott Guermonprez. Over the years, the medical center has struggled with poor maintenance, failing equipment and high turnover of top administrators. Guermonprez himself resigned unexpectedly last week and his last day was Thursday. Dr. Cathy Cruise is taking over as acting director.

In an interview before his resignation, Guermonprez said the home has worked to improve conditions since he arrived last June and pointed to the five stars for staffing as evidence of progress.  

“We’ve seen improvement in a good number of our measures quarter over quarter and we do track every single month and every day . . . to ensure we are providing the best care for our veterans,” said Guermonprez, in an interview before his resignation.

A Manhattan-based spokesman for the VA's regional office also highlighted the Northport home's five-star rating.

“While the Northport Community Living Center has room for progress in some areas, it excels when it comes to staffing, meaning residents there get more direct attention from nursing home staff than do many private sector nursing home residents,” said spokesman James Blue.

The VA uses the survey to compare its homes to privately operated ones, which are rated by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of the 15,487 private homes rated, nearly 29 percent received five stars compared with less than 26 percent of VA homes. Nearly 13 percent of the private homes received one-star ratings compared with roughly 8 percent for the VA homes, according to the Medicaid survey. 

The results of both surveys show VA homes are comparable to private ones even though VA patients are generally sicker, the agency said in a news release. 

“We will release this data annually and use it to drive improvements across the VA nursing home system, including aggressive efforts to improve our 11 one-star facilities by sharing best practices,” acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke said in the statement.

VA officials posted the survey results on the agency's website in June after USA Today and The Boston Globe asked about the quality of VA nursing home care.

The Trump Administration said making the information available to the public allows veterans to make better health care choices and shows transparency and accountability. The VA also posts hospital wait times, opioid prescription rates, employee settlements and accountability actions, and chief executive travel.

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