Concerns Raised About New Owners of Wanaque Nursing Home Where 11 Children Died

North Jersey Record

by Lindy Washburn

Jul 2, 2019

A Democratic state senator is urging New Jersey to prevent new owners from taking over the Wanaque nursing home where 11 children died last fall.  

Former Gov. Richard Codey, a Montclair Democrat, expressed his “deep concerns” about the sale in a letter to the state health commissioner, asking for a “full investigation” before the license of the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation is transferred. He cited the track records of the new co-owners, Bent Philipson and Abraham Kraus. 

The center, with 92 beds for children and 135 for adults and a state-run school for its young patients, is one of only four facilities in the state that cares for ventilator-dependent children. 

Last year, 36 children became ill and 11 died in an outbreak of adenovirus. Federal and state inspectors found deficiencies in infection control and management and levied a penalty of $600,000.  

But Codey expressed deep concerns about the new co-owners.

“It would be irresponsible to move forward with the approval process,” Codey wrote. “We owe it to all current and former patients to make sure that those entrusted to operate long-term care facilities are meeting their responsibilities both professionally and ethically.” 

Philipson is named in a class-action lawsuit by Filipino nurses who claim they were treated as indentured servants when they were brought to the United States at sub-standard wages and required to pay $25,000 before they could leave for another job. He is a principal of SentosaCare and has an ownership stake in 44 nursing homes in six states, according to public records.

Kraus owns four nursing homes in New Jersey — in North Bergen, East Orange, Newark, and Perth Amboy. In December, the federal Department of Labor ordered the Newark nursing home — Sinai Post-Acute Nursing and Rehab Center — to pay $260,000 in back wages and damages to 174 employees. Investigators found violations of overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  

A spokeswoman for the state Health Department said that “a review of the track records of potential new owners is part of the Department’s standard review practice.”

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