The state Health Department told regulators in 2016 that the owners of a half-dozen deeply troubled nursing homes had no “character and competence” issues, allowing them to buy four former mid-Hudson Elant Inc. nursing homes that are now laden with complaints.

On the DOH’s recommendation, the Public Health and Health Planning Council, which votes on nursing-home licensure, permitted companies owned primarily by Richard Aryeh Platschek, Machla Solomon Abramczyk and Robert Schuck to buy the former Elant nursing homes. Now the Goshen home, renamed Sapphire at Goshen, is following a state-ordered corrective action plan because of short-staffing that endangered residents, according to the DOH.

Despite owning stakes in six New York nursing homes with 333 violations between Feb. 1, 2014, and Jan. 31, including 17 incidents of harm and serious danger, the state DOH told the council that the owners had provided a "substantially consistent high level of care" at those facilities. The other homes include Briarcliff Manor and the White Plains Center for Nursing in Westchester County, Nassau County's Townhouse Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, along with Williamsville Suburban Nursing Home, Safire Northtowns and Safire Southtowns in and around Buffalo.

DOH spokespeople said state law obligates department staff to make a positive recommendation to the committee on prospective nursing-home buyers if their past citations didn't "directly affect" patients’ health safety and welfare, the citations were not "recurrent" and they were "promptly corrected."

Specifically, over a 10-year period, nursing-home buyers must not have had two or more citations that actually harmed or put residents in imminent danger, and those serious citations must not have had the same root cause. Plus, prospective nursing-home buyers must meet basic criteria like background and financial checks, and the applicants must have fixed any outstanding issues.

The DOH also makes buyer groups replace business partners who run homes that don't meet the aforementioned criteria, said Daniel Sheppard, DOH deputy commissioner in the Office of Primary Care and Health Systems Management.

"It can take months to do the due diligence," Sheppard said of a DOH review process that he called rigorous. "There’s a lot happening. If we find that the nursing home group member doesn’t meet the criteria, the Department of Health will recommend to (the council) that the ownership group not get approved, and the owner will get bumped."

DOH spokespeople couldn’t provide statistics on how often the DOH recommends that the council reject prospective nursing home owners or the rate at which the council votes down applicants.

But Assemblyman James Skoufis said the council generally defers to the DOH’s recommendations, rubber-stamping the applications in their crowded meeting dockets.

Skoufis called for "public health law to be changed to require the DOH to more adequately consider chronic violations when vetting applications of sale" for nursing homes. He thinks legislators should consider professionalizing the review board because busy volunteers lack the time to properly review sales.

In total, in addition to the four former Elant homes, rebranded "Sapphire" in Goshen, Wappingers Falls, Beacon and Newburgh, the facilities' owners currenly have stakes in at least 19 other New York nursing homes, according to DOH filings. Medicare has found 13 to be chronically short-staffed.

Charlie Specht, a reporter with WKBW, an ABC affiliate in Buffalo, produced a scathing exposé early this year on Safire Southtowns in Erie County. Shortly afterward, the DOH ordered the home to develop a corrective action plan like the one required for the former Elant home in Goshen.

Asked about the Sapphire owners’ records elsewhere, Jay Pepper, the company’s compliance officer, said, "All of the Sapphire homes' ownership have been vetted by the Department of Health and the Public Health Council. The partners have worked together for decades and are all experienced operators, who are committed to bring the best quality of care for the residents."