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All 185 residents moved from Absolut nursing home in Orchard Park

All 185 residents of the closed Absolut nursing home in Orchard Park have been relocated, with dozens transferred to another poorly rated Absolut facility in East Aurora.

An estimated 55 residents were transferred from Absolut Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation at Orchard Park to the Absolut Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation at Aurora Park, according to a source familiar with details of the closing.

Aurora Park, one of the region's largest nursing homes with 320 beds, is rated at one star for overall performance, the lowest rating issued by the federal government. The 202-bed Orchard Park facility had also been rated at one star before it shut its doors Oct. 6.

The transfers were monitored by the State Health Department, which approved a closure plan when the Absolut chain announced it was closing the nursing home and would file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition seeking to reorganize its other facilities last month.

Health Department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said the residents were moved to “other facilities providing the appropriate levels of care.”

The Orchard Park nursing home had employed 234 workers, according to the bankruptcy petition filed by Absolut Facilities Management, whose chief operating officer is Israel Sherman.

Most were hired at other nursing homes, but 21 unionized workers lost their jobs, according to a Local 1199 Service Employees International Union official.

Attempts to negotiate a severance package for the workers who lost their jobs have been stymied because of the bankruptcy proceedings, according to Todd Hobler, vice president of Local 1199.

Jennifer Page removed her father from Absolut Care of Aurora Park nursing home in East Aurora because she said it provided poor care. She's started an online petition asking New York State to shut down the facility and is organizing a protest outside the facility at 11 a.m. Sunday, April 28. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

“The employer said they could not get that approved through the bankruptcy court, so unfortunately workers are going to have to wait until the group emerges from bankruptcy," Hobler said, adding that there are no indications of when that will happen.

Hobler said that many of the unionized workers who cared for residents at the Orchard Park facility transferred with the residents to Aurora Park.

“For continuity of care, we thought that was really important. To have a familiar face is helpful and makes the transfer a little easier,” Hobler said.

Jennifer Page, who has organized protests outside Absolut's nursing home in East Aurora over the level of care there, expressed concern over the transfer of residents to that facility.

"It is all about the dollar bills going into the CEO’s bank account. If Mr. Sherman was truly interested in patients and employees being a top priority, they would not be in this mess in the first place. Facilities that truly have a 'commitment to excellence' do not repeatedly receive one-star ratings. I am not buying it," Page said.

Christopher Luterek, Absolut’s vice president of business development, declined to answer questions about which nursing homes the residents were transferred to, but did say, "all residents were safely placed in facilities of their choosing."

Absolut had planned to close its nursing home by Nov. 15, according to the closure application approved by the state, but the residents were placed faster than expected in other nursing homes in the region.

Absolut purchased the Orchard Park nursing home, along with other nursing homes in the Buffalo region, in 2007, beginning a wave of local nursing home purchases by investors from the New York City area.

Sherman, who resides in Queens, stated in bankruptcy documents that he expects the Absolut chain will emerge "a much stronger company" after the legal proceedings are concluded.

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