Ken Carlson

County Pulse: Covenant ministries of Turlock catch flak for deeds of for-profit nursing home owner

Covenant Care California LLC, the for-profit owner of Vintage Faire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Modesto, has a disclaimer on its Web page saying it is not related to the nonprofit Covenant Retirement Communities, the owner of Covenant Village and other health services in Turlock.

People who want to vent about problems at the Vintage Faire nursing home should keep that in mind. As reported on The Modesto Bee’s front page Dec. 20, state regulators cited Vintage Faire for improper patient transfers that occurred in March and also investigated serious care deficiencies at the 99-bed nursing home on Dale Road.

If you are angry about Vintage Faire’s practices, there is no reason to call Covenant Village, Covenant Care at Home or Covenant Care Hospice, all of Turlock, because they are in no way related to the nursing home’s for-profit owner. The nonprofit Covenant entities in Turlock are tied to the Evangelical Covenant Church, which used to own Emanuel Medical Center.

Those nonprofit “Covenant” organizations grew from ministries of the church established by Swedish immigrants in the Midwest, which have a 130-year history of Christian-based community service and health outreach.

One of the Bee stories stated that Vintage Faire’s owner, Covenant Care LLC of Southern California, was not related to Covenant Village Care Center in Turlock.

Still, Covenant Care at Home has received some irate calls, spokeswoman Ronda Malmberg said.

Two callers seemed to blame the home care service for transferring family members, she said. In addition, hospitals and care facilities that refer patients to Covenant Care at Home have asked if the nonprofit and Vintage Faire have the same owner.

They absolutely do not, Malmberg said.

“We had the Covenant name first,” she said. “Covenant Retirement Communities has been around for a long time.”

Malmberg said that disclaimer on the for-profit company’s website stems from a legal agreement some years ago between Covenant Retirement Communities and Covenant Care LLC of Southern California.

The nonprofit Covenant Retirement Communities has 14 senior living centers in eight states, while Covenant Care LLC has 56 nursing homes and residential care facilities in seven states. And some of their territories overlap.

“In the markets where we (both operate), they are not supposed to use that name on their signs and facilities,” said Joseph Haughney, president of Covenant Care at Home, which has a corporate office in Skokie, Ill.

Representatives of Covenant Care LLC did not respond to requests for comment.

About two years ago, Covenant Village enforced the agreement to stop the Covenant Care LLC-owned Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Tuolumne Road from using a van that displayed the Covenant Care name, Malmberg said.

According to Malmberg, the name confusion created another problem when the for-profit competitor purchased a local home health agency, Focus Health. She said Covenant Care at Home received calls from confused Focus Health employees, who thought they worked for the nonprofit Covenant.

She claimed Focus employees also misinformed local health care facilities that refer patients who need care at home.

“The facilities thought they were giving the patients to us,” Malmberg said. “We have received complaints regarding delayed or poor service, only to find out we didn’t have that patient in our system. The referral was given to Focus Health – not us.”

Malmberg said Covenant Care at Home has a 4-star quality rating from www.medicare.gov., which provides a comparison of home health services for consumers. Focus Health has 2  1/2 stars.

Covenant Care at Home and Covenant Care Hospice once were departments of Emanuel Medical Center. The home care and hospice services were named Covenant Care after Emanuel sold their licenses to Covenant Retirement Communities in 2008 and 2013, respectively.

Apparently, that naming decision did not anticipate the current conflicts with Covenant Care LLC.

“We want to keep using the Covenant ministries brand of services,” Haughney said.

The administrator said he didn’t know why the Southern California company chose the Covenant Care name when it was founded in 1994, but the name Covenant is fairly prevalent among organizations that own nursing homes and senior residential centers across the United States.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321

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