Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Woodbury.

Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Woodbury. Credit: Danielle Silverman

There are too many distressing examples of nursing homes that have neglected, mistreated and abused Long Island's most vulnerable residents.

Nearly one in four Long Island nursing homes faced fines in 2023, some for inspection-related deficiencies; others for more severe violations, like the nursing home aide who sexually assaulted a nonverbal resident at Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton.

Even that horrific case resulted in an insufficient $10,000 state fine, along with a federal penalty of $40,000. Other homes faced fines of only $2,000 for smaller offenses, such as when a nurse practiced poor hygiene and didn't follow infection control protocol at Sands Point Center for Health and Rehabilitation in Port Washington. Long Island nursing homes faced $148,000 in state Department of Health fines in 2023, up from $144,250 in 2022. New York's average fine per nursing home stood at $12,775, ranking it a disturbingly low 46th nationwide.

Minimal penalties will not force a nursing home operator to change behavior, improve practices or put any effort or money into staffing, training and standards. The state must overcome the powerful nursing home lobby and raise the cost of doing bad business.  

There are egregious examples, too. Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Woodbury has faced intense scrutiny by state Attorney General Letitia James, who sued the nursing home alleging its owners diverted millions of dollars in Medicaid and Medicare funds for personal profit. That attention followed a 2020 Newsday investigation into Cold Spring Hills and its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the home was held in contempt by a Nassau State Supreme Court judge, who found it didn't pay into a union benefit fund for employee health care. The home's owners have until April 17 to pay the fund $2.65 million. The judge last month also ordered that the owners pay restitution to the facility and add an independent patient care monitor.  

Those requirements are critical, because it seems the only way a facility like Cold Spring Hills will improve its caregiving is if it's forced to do so. It's worrisome that the owners claimed they don't have the funds to make the employee benefits payment; they must be held responsible until they do.

But court rulings won't solve the pervasive, intractable problems that plague the region's nursing homes, including inadequate staffing, supplies and patient care. This severe lack of oversight and accountability means it's easy for troubled nursing homes to remain troubled, offering substandard care to residents who deserve better.

Along with increased penalties, state officials must expand inspection and oversight efforts. Lawmakers also should evaluate whether changes to state law can increase nursing home owners' accountability and make it easier to remove owners, add monitors or install independent operators, when nursing homes fail their residents.

Every nursing home seems to pledge the best of care, using words like “excellence” and “unparalleled” to describe what they do. We must start holding them to those promises. 

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months