NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Five Massachusetts nursing homes that have come under recent scrutiny will soon close their doors, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The department said the five nursing homes are owned and operated by New Jersey-based Skyline Healthcare, which is voluntarily surrendering its licenses for the facilities. 

The nursing homes, located in Dighton, Fall River and New Bedford, and were recently ordered to stop accepting new patients due to what the health department characterized as “ongoing operational issues.” An administrator at of the homes, Bedford Gardens, reported being short-staffed because workers were frustrated that their paychecks were late or bounced.

The nursing homes set to close are:

  • Bedford Village and Rehabilitation Care (New Bedford)
  • Rockdale Care and Rehabilitation Center (New Bedford)
    Bedford Gardens Care and Rehabilitation (New Bedford)
  • Dighton Care and Rehabilitation (Dighton)
  • Highland Manor Care and Rehabilitation Center (Fall River)

The Department of Public Health did not include a specific timeline of when these closures will happen, but said they are working closely to monitor resident safety and care in each of the facilities.

“We understand that this process may be unsettling and stressful for residents and their families, and DPH is working closely with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) Long Term Care Ombudsman to ensure that residents’ healthcare needs are being met during this time, and that they will be appropriately relocated to other facilities,” the health department said in a statement.

Eyewitness News tried to reach out to Skyline for comment, but the company’s phone number and website no longer work. A lawyer who previously represented Skyline’s owner, Joseph Schwartz, told a reporter he wouldn’t know how to get in touch with Schwartz. A prior Skyline Healthcare spokesman said he was no longer affiliated with the company.

Skyline’s problems in Massachusetts are far from its first. The company has faced financial and legal troubles with its more than 100 nursing homes in states including Florida, Arkansas and Pennsylvania. 

A day after the closures were announced, Eyewitness News spoke to a resident and human resources employee at Bedford Gardens, one of the nursing homes set to close.

Lorie Lucio, who has worked at Bedford Gardens for 25 years, says she wants the state held accountable since Skyline’s troubles in other states was known about already.

“These are nursing homes these aren’t stores. You don’t just let anyone run your nursing home. I hope they learn from that because all these people have to find new homes. It’s not a store,” Lucio said.

Meanwhile, residents like Joan Lynch are forced to find housing.

Without a timeline of when she will be out of a home, she’s frustrated about her options.

“I have a plan, but I don’t really know how much time I have to implement it,” Lynch said. “There’s five of us closing at one time. There’s just no place for us to go,” Lynch said, referencing the five nursing homes closing under Skyline’s watch.

Steve Monroe, managing editor at Irving Levin Associates, a Connecticut-based senior care investment research firm, said the issues surrounding Skyline’s Massachusetts nursing homes don’t surprise him. 

“It’s a company that’s basically blowing up,” Monroe said in an interview with Eyewitness News ahead of the announcement that the facilities would close.

Monroe said Skyline’s major problems began when it recently underwent a rapid expansion to more than 100 nursing homes in multiple states. “It wasn’t meeting payroll out in the midwest in states like South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska. People were coming into work, there wasn’t food in the kitchen for the residents and medicines had kind of gone dry.”

Eventually the states had to intervene and take the nursing homes over. It’s unclear where the residents of the Massachusetts homes will be transferred or what will become of the homes’ current staff.