NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Five nursing homes that have been struggling to stay open were placed into temporary receivership Monday, Eyewitness News has learned.
Attorney General Maura Healey’s office petitioned to place the facilities into receivership to protect the more than 200 residents from “imminent danger of death or serious physical injury.” The petition was swiftly approved by a Suffolk Superior Court judge Monday afternoon.
“Our office is pleased to have secured this receivership as we continue to monitor the closure process,” a spokeswoman for Healey said in a statement.
The nursing homes, located in Dighton, Fall River and New Bedford, were recently ordered to stop accepting new patients due to what the health department characterized as “ongoing operational issues.”
The five nursing homes are owned and operated by New Jersey-based Skyline Healthcare, which voluntarily surrendered its licenses for the facilities.
According to Healey’s petition, the facilities are currently at risk of dangerous understaffing because its employees are frustrated that their paychecks were either late or bounced. The facilities are also lacking critical supplies because Skyline has not paid the vendors who provide them.
“At least one facility has been put on notice that its food service vendor will no longer deliver food starting tomorrow (April 30, 2019) due to nonpayment,” Healey said in her petition. “Another facility has run out of milk for its residents.”
In addition, Healey reports that phone service has already been shut off at two facilities, the delivery of nursing supplies to all facilities has been placed on hold and employee health, dental and vision benefits will be terminated if premiums are not paid by April 30.
Skyline has recently relied on staffing agency’s to ensure residents were being taken care of, and according to Healey, the company owes more than $180,000 to one of those agencies.
The judge ordered that KCP Advisory Group of Billerica be the temporary receiver of the facilities. The receiver is not only responsible for managing and operating the facilities, but it will also need to “effectuate an orderly closure of the facilities.” It also orders that Skyline have no possession or control of any of the facilities or the money that funds them.
The order says the receivership will be in place for no more than 60 days, “until such time as the health and safety of the residents of the facilities is no longer a concern.”
“The safety and well-being of all residents is our utmost priority,” Paul Valentine of KCP Advisory Group, who is leading the receivership, said in a statement. “As Receiver, we will work with residents and their families, with employees, and with state agencies, including the Department of Public Health, throughout this process to assure the orderly transition of care for the residents.”
Grace Williamson, the supervisor of nursing at Bedford Village, said since the announcement of the closures last week, everything has been difficult.
“We have 30 days to move people out of here, our main concern right now is taking care of our patients,” Williamson said. “I can’t stand the chaos of everything else going on.”
Williamson said it not only has been logistically hard, but it has also taken an emotional toll too. She said many of the patients have close relationships with the staff.
“This is not as simple as closing these doors,” she said. “We love these people, okay? And every day a patient walks out of here, you don’t understand what it’s like to have a patient tell you, ‘I’m sorry, I thought I was going to die here.'”
For that reason, nurses tell Eyewitness News some patients have refused to leave. LPN Elizabeth Nelson said one woman was supposed to be transferred Monday but told her social worker she wasn’t going anywhere.
“We will have to wait it out and see what happens, but she did refuse to leave,” Nelson said. “She just didn’t leave. She is still in here right now.”
Jeannine Pettiford’s cousin is currently a patient at Bedford Village. She said he also refuses to leave and she doesn’t understand the timeline that was given for the closures.
“They are operating as though they are evacuating the place because there’s a hurricane coming next week,” Pettiford said. “There’s not a hurricane coming next week. There’s no reason to rush folks out of their home and say ‘You’ve got eight days to get out and find a new place.’ There’s no reason for this.”
Eyewitness News has continued to reach out to Skyline for comment, but the company’s listed phone number was disconnected and its website was down.