A large Minnesota operator of senior homes has forfeited licenses to provide care at three of its facilities, after state health inspectors found repeated incidents of serious harm to older residents.

In an unusual action, Minnesota Heritage House of Little Falls has agreed to surrender licenses to provide home care services at its three assisted-living facilities in Pequot Lakes, Kimball and Adrian, Minn. To minimize disruption, residents will be allowed to continue living at these facilities, but care will be provided by a different operator and the facilities will receive closer state supervision.

The Minnesota Department of Health said Heritage House “demonstrated a pattern of recurring violations” of state law that was “detrimental to the welfare of its clients,” according to a consent order reached last month. Since late 2015, Heritage House has received more than 80 new and repeat orders to correct violations, including some that resulted in serious injury, impairment or death of residents, state records show.

In recent surveys, state health investigators also found that Heritage House lacked records showing that residents were properly evaluated after they suffered visible injuries from falls.

The agreement to give up the home care licenses was reached after the Health Department considered imposing more serious enforcement actions, state officials said. In August, the agency informed Heritage House that it was considering an immediate suspension and revocation of its license because of “long-standing violations.” Heritage avoided a shutdown by offering to bring in an outside entity to provide home care services at the three problem facilities.

Kathy Birchem, owner of Heritage House, said the three facilities will remain open, but declined to answer questions when reached by telephone Friday.

Under terms of the settlement, Heritage House will not be allowed to admit any new residents until clients are safely transferred to a new provider. In addition, the Health Department may make regular visits to monitor the facilities’ progress toward correcting violations. The owners of Heritage House are also prohibited from applying for a new home care license for the next five years.

It is unusual for the state Department of Health to take enforcement actions against senior facilities. While the agency receives more than 20,000 reports of maltreatment each year, only two facilities have had their licenses revoked over the past five years, state records show.

“It shows the depths of the state’s concern that it would take this unusual action,” said Suzanne Scheller, a Champlin attorney who handles elder abuse and neglect cases.


Twitter: @chrisserres