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RI Veterans Home population down 17% amid COVID-19 concerns

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The Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol. (file photo)

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BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) – The R.I. Veterans Home has seen a steady decline in population in recent months, as nearly 30 residents have either died or been discharged at the same time the state has stopped admitting new residents amid the pandemic.

The decline in residents includes five residents who have died after contracting COVID-19, according to spokesperson Meghan Connelly, who said there are currently 164 residents living in the nursing home for wartime veterans. That’s 17% less than the 192 residents reported in January.

“Historically, the Home averages five losses/discharges of residents per month and the current census number reflects that trend,” Connelly said in an email.

Connelly said the most recent COVID-positive resident to die was on June 6. The first death was reported on May 7. On Monday, the R.I. Department of Health reported the home had between 15 and 19 residents who are currently COVID-positive, with no new cases in the last 14 days.

The stem of new cases comes as a welcomed sign at the state-run facility, as similar facilities in other states have grappled with keeping the disease at bay. In Massachusetts, a scathing new report this week showed how incompetent leadership exacerbated an outbreak at Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke where more than 75 residents have died.

The decline in residents in Rhode Island, however, is coming with a cost to the facility, which has struggled to balance its budget for months. Gov. Gina Raimondo’s revised budget – which she recently signed into law – estimated the state would receive $100,000 less in federal reimbursement because of the decrease in population there.

And it’s not the only nursing home in the state facing money problems, as Hallworth House, a 57-bed nonprofit nursing home on the East Side of Providence that opened in 1968, said it has filed a plan with the Health Department 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.

The owner of Hopkins Manor in North Providence earlier this year filed for court protection, claiming the nursing home is suffering financial losses amplified by COVID-19 that could sink the business.

The nursing home avoided closing by successfully going through receivership, which resulted in a $14.5 million sale to the private equity firm Tryko Partners. The company, which also owns Elmhurst Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Providence, will rename the North Providence facility “Lincolnwood Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center.”

In Bristol, the Veterans Home is made up of six “neighborhoods” broken up into two “cottages,” each with 16 resident beds. When asked if any of the cottages were closing as a result of the contraction in number of residents, Connelly said no, but they were consolidating operations.

“The recent movement of Rhode Island Veterans Home residents from one neighborhood to another is due to COVID-19 quarantine and isolation measures,” Connelly said. “Consolidating residents while the census is lower also allows for efficiency in operations and staffing during the period which the Home is closed to new admissions.”

There are currently 145 people on a waiting list to get into the home, according to Connelly. The home stopped accepting new residents on March 13, according to budget documents.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi contributed to this report

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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