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Beame Urged to Enforce City’s Laws, Seek Additional Authority to Correct Abuses in the Nursing Home

Mayor Abraham Beame was urged to make full use of existing city ordinances and to seek additional legislative authority to correct alleged abuses in the nursing home industry. In a letter to the Mayor, Naomi Levine, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, cited the city’s fire, building, sanitation and health ordinances and its administrative code as means to protect the welfare of nursing home patients.

In addition, she urged the Mayor to make use of his own emergency powers to inspect proprietary nursing homes and condemn those with serious violations. The letter suggested further that Beame seek legislation that would give him the authority to appoint temporary public trustees “to replace existing management in homes where conditions threaten patient health and safety.”

Ms. Levine endorsed the Mayor’s demand yesterday for legislation to restore the city’s authority to inspect nursing homes for Medicaid reimbursement and licensing purposes. But she pointed out that the city already has power under existing laws to send inspectors into nursing homes believed to be in violation of municipal health and safety ordinances.

The letter was sent to the Mayor as joint U.S. Senate-New York State hearings into alleged fraud and misuse of public funds in nursing homes moved into high gear. The hearings, set for Jan. 21, are an outgrowth of investigations conducted by the New York State Temporary Commission on Living Costs headed by Assemblyman Andrew Stein. The probe was prompted in part by an AJCongress study published last July that was highly critical of conditions in many nursing homes. The scheduled hearings will focus on nursing homes owned by Rabbi Bernard Bergman in New York.

ABRAM RECOMMENDED AS PROSECUTOR

In a related development, Gov. Hugh Carey recommended the appointment of Morris B. Abram, a 56-year-old practicing attorney and former president of Brandeis University, to serve as a special prosecutor to investigate the nursing home industry. Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz, who will actually appoint the special prosecutor, had agreed to accept the Governor’s recommendation.

Abram a native of Georgia, served as president of the American Jewish Committee from 1964-1968 and is presently its honorary president He was a member, of the prosecuting staff at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II.

The New Jersey State Senate has voted, meanwhile, to set up a joint legislative committee to investigate nursing homes in that state and the State Assembly is expected to approve. The resolution stemmed from investigations in New York which exposed alleged abuses in the nursing home syndicate of Rabbi Bergman which controls homes in both New York and New Jersey. Investigators have linked at least 11 Jersey nursing homes to the Bergman syndicate.

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