Who Is Tommy East?

Tommy East

James C. Sherlock

Tommy East sits as the Nursing Home Industry representative on the Virginia Board of Health. He is the President & CEO of Heritage Hall Healthcare and Rehabilitation Centers, an operator of nursing homes headquartered in Roanoke.

In 2014, he was appointed by Governor McAuliffe to serve on the Commonwealth of Virginia Board of Health. In 2018, he was reappointed by Governor Northam.

East has served on the Board of Directors and the Executive Board for the Virginia Health Care Association (Nursing Homes). The Virginia Healthcare Association over the years has contributed more than $2.5 million to candidates and PACs in Virginia.

Medicare Nursing Home Compare data and the state records maintained by Virginia Health Information were last updated on March 30, 2020, from facility payroll reports. In those data, 42 of Virginia’s 286 Medicare and Medicaid long-term care facilities reported one-star (much below average) staffing levels. More than half of the 286 were rated much below average or below average.

Mr. East is well versed in nursing home staffing shortages. Heritage Hall operates 17 nursing homes in Virginia. Of those, current Medicare staffing ratings show:

• one is rated average in staffing;
• nine below average; and
• seven much below average.

As but a single example, Heritage Hall Blacksburg is currently rated one star (Much Below Average) for staffing by Medicare. Registered Nurse (RN) hours per resident per day at the Blacksburg facility is a tick worse than that of COVID-19 tragedy-stricken Canterbury Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Richmond. The Medicare staffing ratings for the two facilities are shown below. Patients are in nursing homes specifically because they need care supervised and delivered by registered nurses (RNs). First quarter 2020 payroll reports showed that each offered only 1/3 of the RN hours per resident per day compared to the national average.

Nursing home residents now are locked in and allowed no visitors. Anyone with knowledge of the system and human nature will tell you that care can deteriorate when a patient is not visited regularly.

Governor, you and your Health Commissioner have statutory authority and responsibility for the health and safety of Virginia’s nursing home residents. Take action.

Please direct your Health Commissioner immediately to dispatch his inspectors to the 42 Virginia nursing homes reported much below average in staffing on March 30. Take immediate action against the ones that are dangerously understaffed.

42 CFR 488.301 “A State must establish, in addition to termination of the provider agreement, the following remedies or an approved alternative to the following remedies for imposition against a non-State operated NF:

(1) Temporary management.
(2) Denial of payment for new admissions.
(3) Civil money penalties.
(4) Transfer of residents.
(5) Closure of the facility and transfer of residents.
(6) State monitoring.”

Start the inspections with Mr. East’s Heritage Hall facilities.

Remove Mr. East from the Board of Health