High court ruling clears way for reopening nursing home

May 21, 1998|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Six months after a judge's ruling forced her out of the nursing home business, Lois McGovern is hoping to rebuild her operation, now that a recent decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals has cleared the way.

The ruling gives McGovern the right to operate a nursing home that she lost when a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge ruled last year that the "bed rights" to her 96-bed nursing home belonged to her landlord.

The landlord, Joseph H. Loveman, died in March after selling the property that McGovern called Catonsville Nursing Home. Loveman had rented his property in the 300 block of Harlem Lane since he was convicted in 1981 of Medicaid fraud and banned from running a nursing home.

When McGovern wanted to take the nursing home bed rights to a new location last year, Loveman tried to stop her in court. In an unprecedented ruling, Judge Alfred L. Brennan Sr. decided that the bed rights stayed with the land, preventing McGovern from moving her nursing home.

But the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled Fridaythat Brennan's ruling would have divested the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission of its power to decide where nursing home beds are needed.

In a 28-page decision, the high court also stated that Brennan's decision would have given the property owner "a monopoly" over the nursing home beds, even if his building was destroyed and rebuilt as a "bowling alley, office building, or school."

McGovern closed Catonsville Nursing Home in November as her lease with Loveman was about to run out. Her patients moved to other area nursing homes.

"Words can't express the relief that this is," McGovern said of the decision.

She said she might have to sell some of the bed rights to pay debts, but could open a smaller nursing home in Baltimore County.

Kurt J. Fischer, lawyer for Arelia Loveman, Joseph's widow, said, "We're disappointed. The court reached a thoughtful decision with which we disagree." He noted that the ruling was the first of its kind by the appeals court.

For McGovern, the court's decision will give her back an investment and, she hopes, her occupation operating nursing homes. But she noted it will not bring back her former patients.

Pub Date: 5/21/98

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