Providence nursing home to close, citing COVID-19 losses

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence nursing home has announced plans to close, becoming the first one to fail since the coronavirus pandemic began devastating Rhode Island’s long-term care facilities.

Hallworth House, a 57-bed nonprofit nursing home on the East Side that opened in 1968, said it has filed a plan with the R.I. Department of Health and expects to shut its doors by the end of August.

“The facility had lost more than $1.3 million in the last two years while maintaining high standards of care, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to continue,” Dr. Patricia Nolan, chair of the Hallworth House board, said in a statement.

Stephanie Igoe, Hallworth House’s administrator, said the facility had 51 residents in mid-April, but 28 of them eventually came down with COVID-19 despite “rigorous infection-control protocols.” A dozen have now died. (The facility initially reported 19 infections, but corrected the number after WPRI 12 asked why the total did not match Health Department records.)

In addition, Igoe said 20 Hallworth staff members were infected but have recovered. The 23 remaining residents, their families and the staff were informed of the closure on Tuesday.

“We will work with every family to find a suitable home for their loved ones,” Igoe said.

Hallworth House is affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, and the state’s Episcopal bishop, the Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, serves on the its board of directors, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The closure announcement comes amid growing alarm about the health of Rhode Island’s 85 long-term care facilities, particularly since Rhode Island is more reliant than most states on nursing homes for elder care.

The 85 long-term care facilities — a category which includes both nursing homes and rehabilitation centers — had about 7,800 residents at the start of the year, according to the Health Department. Since then at least 2,570 of those residents have contracted COVID-19, and at least 675 have died — among the highest rates in the country.

“Hallworth House has long been recognized as a high-quality home with strong leadership and dedicated staff. It has done nothing wrong,” said Jim Nyberg, director of LeadingAge RI, which represents the state’s nonprofit nursing homes. “Its closure reflects the ongoing financial struggles of almost all nursing homes in Rhode Island – low reimbursement rates, UHIP, and related challenges.”

Nyberg urged Rhode Island leaders to provide greater financial support for long-term care facilities.

“Every year our industry impresses upon policymakers across state government and the General Assembly that our nursing homes are on the edge, and this shows that we are not exaggerating,” he said.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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