Consulate nursing homes are changing names. Are they changing ownership?

Florida’s largest chain still seems to be tied to the homes that now carry new branding.
Exterior photo of Radiant Health Care of Brandon, formerly Consulate Health pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022 in Brandon.
Exterior photo of Radiant Health Care of Brandon, formerly Consulate Health pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022 in Brandon. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jan. 19, 2022|Updated Jan. 22, 2022

The largest nursing home chain in Florida is rebranding.

On its website, Consulate Health Care Services no longer lists any long-term care facilities in the state.

In the wake of a bankruptcy filing and a slew of bad press over the last few years, the privately held chain — the sixth-largest nursing home company in the nation — has quietly divided its Florida facilities into three separate companies. All three appear to still be affiliated with Consulate.

Neither Consulate or the new companies responded to multiple requests for comment. On calls made to Consulate’s corporate headquarters to reach a spokesperson, employees directed the Tampa Bay Times to a person who denied working for the company.

“Consulate broke into four different companies,” said a receptionist at Consulate Health Care’s office in Georgia. “Anything that’s outside of the state of Florida is still considered Consulate. Anything inside the state of Florida has been divvied up among Radiant, Independence and NSPIRE. But we are still the corporate office for any of those companies.”

Many of Consulate’s Florida nursing homes have begun to change their individual names as well, erasing any affiliation with the chain.

Such reorganization leaves consumers in the dark, critics say.

“If you Google Consulate, you’ve got 20 years of bad press,” said Bill Dean, a former Miami-Dade prosecutor who now specializes in suing nursing homes. “But no one is ever going to know that the new ‘Happy Nursing Home LLC’ is actually the same exact people as Consulate. It’s the same employees, the same leadership — but it’s now under a new, rebranded fancy name.”

With new company names and opaque relationships, he said, consumers searching for a nursing home in Florida may have a hard time knowing a facility’s prior history or current ownership.

A household name

Consulate was well known in Florida even before the pandemic struck. By 2018, the for-profit company controlled one out of every nine nursing homes in Florida, the Naples Daily News reported, including 13 in Tampa Bay.

Its facilities have been no stranger to controversy.

In January 2018, the state Agency for Health Care Administration threatened to revoke 53 of Consulate’s 77 Florida nursing homes’ licenses over poor patient care and safety violations. The agency instead reached a settlement that put eight of Consulate’s homes on a two-year improvement plan, including three in the Tampa Bay area.

The giant chain was one of five nursing home companies that were investigated by Congress over their handling of coronavirus in 2020.

The same year, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a $256 million civil fraud judgment against Consulate, ruling that nursing homes currently owned by the company had defrauded taxpayers by inflating bills for residents’ treatments.

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Entities operating under Consulate filed for bankruptcy in March 2021. The chain, which at the time owned 140 facilities across the country, said that it did not have the funds to pay the judgment.

“Many large skilled nursing organizations, including Consulate, have encountered increased financial stress as a direct result (of the pandemic),” wrote Paul Rundell, the company’s bankruptcy restructuring officer, in a September 2021 court filing. “And the State of Florida, where many of Consulate’s skilled nursing facilities are located, is among the hardest hit.”

The Justice Department and the whistleblower filing the claim eventually agreed to settle for far less, leaving Consulate responsible for only $4.5 million in light of the company declaring bankruptcy.

This bankruptcy filing, and the fanfare accompanying a high-profile federal lawsuit, may have contributed to the divvying up of Consulate Health Care’s nursing homes in Florida. But licensing documents and corporate filings suggest the new owners of these facilities are related to the company.

New companies

Using Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration data, the Tampa Bay Times analyzed all of the state’s long-term care facilities with licenses linked to Consulate Health Care’s official website in 2021.

The Times found that out of 77 senior homes with active licenses, 76 were owned by limited liability companies that still listed a Consulate office in Georgia as their mailing address. This was true even for facilities that had recently changed names to remove “Consulate Health Care” from their titles.

Mailing addresses are considered an industry shorthand for determining a facility’s corporate ownership, according to Dean.

“When it has that address in Georgia, I know it’s a Consulate facility,” he said.

Seven of these facilities no longer appear to be listed on any company website; the rest have been divvied up.

Consulate Health Care facilities in Florida now are listed as being operated by one of three companies:

  • Raydiant Health Care Services
    • Raydiant Health Care Services’ website says the company has led the way in rehabilitative care in Florida since “opening their doors to the Sunshine State in 2021.”
    • The application to create the name “Raydiant Health Care” was submitted to the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations in September 2021 by Charlene G. Johnson, attorney and director of licensing and certification at Consulate Health Care. Johnson used her official Consulate company email address.
    • Many Consulate nursing homes have been renamed using the Raydiant moniker. Consulate Health Care of Brandon, one of its Tampa Bay facilities, is now Raydiant Health Care of Brandon. The nursing home experienced an early, deadly coronavirus outbreak at the same time that Congress was investigating Consulate Health Care for its handling of the pandemic. Twenty-two of its residents had died of COVID-19 by the time the state stopped publishing nursing home data in June 2021.
  • Independence Living Centers
    • Independence Living Centers’ website appears to have launched in early January.
    • The name “Independence Living Centers” was registered with the Division of Corporations in September 2021, the same month as Raydiant Health Care. John Silliter, a former Consulate employee, is the chief executive officer of Independence Living Centers, according to his voicemail. Silliter signed the registration form. The limited liability company that owns the name, Josera LLC, was created in July, with Johnson of Consulate again signing off as the authorized representative.
    • Its facilities were all previously advertised as Consulate-operated homes. Several have been renamed.
    • Locations include Tallahassee Living Center, formerly named Consulate Health Care of Tallahassee, which has a one-star rating on the federal database Care Compare.The facility is one of four Florida Consulate homes that are currently listed as candidates for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services program for “special focus facilities,” a designation reserved only for nursing homes that face possible forced closure due to a history of serious quality of care problems.
    • Independence Living Centers is actively hiring for positions in Florida facilities, including 92 jobs in Tampa Bay. Its application portal redirects candidates to a page that says, “Consulate Health Care Job Listings.”
  • NSPIRE Healthcare
    • NSPIRE Healthcare has operated five facilities in south Florida for several years. These appear not to be directly owned by Consulate.Its current website was created in early 2021. In April, it advertised its five nursing homes. But today, the company lists 27 facilities, 22 of which were previously marketed as Consulate-owned homes.
    • The Times called several area NSPIRE facilities in an attempt to reach a media contact for the company. A front desk staffer at NSPIRE Health Care Sarasota — formerly Consulate Health Care of Sarasota — said that these Consulate facilities had not been sold to a new company, but that Consulate had instead “rebranded.” Any of the Florida locations are under different names, she said — either Independence, Raydiant or NSPIRE.
    • Like Independent Living Centers, the webpage that displays all open jobs at NSPIRE facilities is labeled, “Consulate Health Care Job Listings.”

‘Synergy Health Care Services’

A new business related to Consulate has recently emerged.

Calls to the number for the company office in Atlanta or for the in-state office in Maitland now redirect to an automated message that begins with, “Thank you for calling Synergy HCS.”

Synergy Health Care Services advertises itself as a consulting company to senior care operators, working “behind-the-scenes to deliver solutions that allow providers to focus on what they do best, patient and resident care.” The company’s LinkedIn page was created in 2021.

All of its current listed employees — 20 in total — began their positions in December 2021 after a long run working at Consulate.

Chris Bryson, former chief executive officer at Consulate Health Care, has the same role at Synergy.

Syngery is actively hiring. All the open positions are based at the longtime Consulate operations address in Maitland.

At first, though, it wasn’t clear if there was a website for Synergy.

“There’s been a recent reorganization within the company, and I just don’t believe the website has been switched over yet so that it’s up and running and operational,” said Sarah Catherine Whalen, corporate counsel at Synergy HCS and former attorney at Consulate Health Care, on a phone call in which the Times requested a communications person for Synergy.

She directed the Times to Jennifer Trapp, vice president of brand management for Synergy HCS and the former spokesperson for Consulate.

Trapp said that Synergy is a separate company that contracts with Consulate to provide “back-office” support.

“The buildings in Florida were acquired by other operating management companies,” she said. “The company that I work for, we contract with several different providers, including Consulate, who operates outside of the state of Florida.”

Trapp declined to name the company’s other clients, citing privacy reasons.

She said the Times would have to contact Consulate’s press person for questions about its Florida facilities or company structure.

On a call back to the Consulate office in Atlanta to request contact information for a Consulate-specific spokesperson, the receptionist said the Times should contact Trapp. “We just split into four different companies and it’s just kind of a little confusing,” said the front desk receptionist. “So I thought Jen Trapp would still take care of that.”

She said as far as she knew, she was still answering the phone for Consulate.