A Minnesota senior living provider has agreed to pay a $10,000 penalty for engaging in what the state attorney general called “deceptive and misleading practices” for not providing promised wellness visits to residents. The provider, however, tells McKnight’s Senior Living that it is confident that its actions were appropriate.

Continental Gardens Senior Living of Saint Paul, also known as Yorkshire of Edina Senior Living, in Edina, MN, advertised that it provided monthly wellness visits by licensed nurses and charged residents a monthly $325 fee for the service. The advertised wellness package included a monthly nurse visit and wellness review, an emergency pendant and maintenance of a health record, including current medications.

Due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, however, Yorkshire of Edina replaced the monthly wellness visits with twice-daily COVID-19 screenings for a period of time, which “did not amount to actually providing the monthly wellness visit to wellness package participants as advertised,” according to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Of the community’s 21 residents enrolled in the wellness package from May through August 2020, 20 residents did not receive a visit from a nurse or physician in at least one of those months, the attorney general said. The operator advertised the wellness visits as a “greater depth of monitoring” than its COVID-19 screenings, Ellison said in a news release

A spokesperson for Yorkshire of Edina told McKnight’s Senior Living that when the practice was brought to the attention of the attorney general last year, the community worked with Ellison and his staff members to show “how our services were, in many cases, superior to what was contractually required.”

“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we immediately and comprehensively made changes in every area of our operations to better protect our community from the effects of the virus and to limit the opportunities for transmission,” spokesperson Jon Austin said. “One of the key steps in this fight was minimizing the number of contacts among residents, between residents and their families, and between residents and staff. In some cases, this action resulted in services that might have been provided in multiple visits being provided in a single visit.”

Austin said that was the case with the wellness visits, which were provided in conjunction with other services rather than in a “stand-alone visit.”

“It is our belief that this step in no way compromised the quality or quantity of our wellness checks,” Austin said. “To the contrary, we’re proud of our record, in terms of fighting the COVID-19 virus and maintaining our quality of care despite the enormous challenges and stresses those efforts placed on our residents, families and staff.”

Yorkshire of Edina, according to Ellison, violated the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act, the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Minnesota Act Against False Statements in Advertising by failing to deliver on its promise. Yorkshire of Edina, which provides independent living, assisted living and memory care, was facing a $25,000 penalty per violation. In the end, Austin said, the company determined that the best way to resolve the state’s concerns was an agreement that makes no finding of fault.

Under the terms of an assurance of discontinuance filed April 1 in Ramsey County District Court, Yorkshire of Edina agreed to provide its advertised wellness visits, not to further engage in false advertising, and to pay $10,000 in settlement funds to the attorney general’s office to distribute to residents. 

“We trust nursing homes and assisted living facilities with some of our most vulnerable citizens, and if those facilities violate that trust by failing to deliver services they’ve promised, I will make sure our seniors are protected,” Ellison said, adding that the community cooperated with the investigation.