By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
A Clovis doctor spent years operating a local nursing home, months fighting to keep it and minutes accepting a judge’s decision it was gone.
But Dr. Ali Ghaffari said the good memories of Buena Vista Nursing Home will linger for a lifetime.
District Judge Stephen Quinn on Thursday afternoon issued a ruling that the state’s decision to take over the management of Buena Vista was justified. Quinn agreed with state officials that the facility’s care and conditions put its residents in danger of death or harm, according to a press release from Gov. Bill Richardson.
“It’s going to be missed, and we want to carry on the good memories that we had at the nursing home … I’ll try to make the best of it — what can I say,” said Ghaffari, unaware of the decision until contacted by a reporter.
Quinn went on to note in the ruling that the state and its receiver, Peak Medical Services of Albuquerque, complied fully with all statutory requirements and in accordance with the order of the court.
“This is a great example of how pooling the resources of several state agencies can protect the citizens of New Mexico,” Richardson said in a press release. “We heard there was a problem in this facility, we investigated it, and took action to ensure the safety of those people. I’ll continue to order a zero tolerance policy to protect the senior citizens of New Mexico.”
In his ruling Quinn stated, “The method of operations of the Buena Vista Retirement Center constituted a method of operation that presented a situation of imminent danger of death or significant mental or physical harm to its residents, thus involving the authority of the Secretary of Health to seek appointment of a receiver.”
It took Quinn three months to rule on whether the New Mexico Department of Health’s decision to take over the home was justified.
Ghaffari did not argue with the judge’s decision.
“I’m sure Judge Quinn put a lot of time and thought into this,” he said. “I’m sure in his mind the action was justified.”
The state assumed control of the nursing home in May after an undercover investigation brought into question the safety and care of residents.
Allegations of neglect included a defective water heater, the presence of mold, procedural problems and alleged lack of state and federal compliance.
Ghaffari has had a 14-year history of disputes with state officials and residents’ ombudsmen over the quality of care at his nursing home.
At a hearing in July, Ghaffari said he had corrected any defects the state pointed out. He also played a tape containing the voice of a clergyman acting as a state-appointed ombudsman soliciting sex from a Buena Vista employee.
Ghaffari’s attorney had claimed the ombudsman said he would shut down the nursing home if he didn’t get what he wanted.
Ghaffari has said that more than one ombudsman was guilty of unacceptable behavior. An earlier ombudsman had thrown feces at Ghaffari’s wife and another had called the Ghaffaris “thieves” and “money-hungry.”
The state Aging and Long-Term Services Department planned to investigate the allegations.
Ghaffari said he plans to remain in Clovis to run his medical practice and pharmacy.
“We’re going to move on, close this chapter, and move on to the next chapter,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed this this report.