Nursing home operator disputes termination claims
Says he can refute all of state’s claims
THE FOUNDER AND CEO of the company that runs two of the three nursing homes the state is moving to shut down said the decision runs counter to the facts and is likely to have a negative impact on the broader industry.
Damian Dell’Anno, whose Next Step Healthcare owns Wareham Healthcare and Healthcare in Worcester, said state officials told him on Monday that the two facilities were receiving Medicaid termination notices because of concerns about employee testing for COVID-19 and infection controls.
Dell’Anno said the reasoning makes no sense because both facilities passed the state’s benchmarks on those and other fronts. “All of the facts that they referred to in the letter of termination we can refute,” he said. “I don’t understand what the secretary [Marylou Sudders, the secretary of health and human services] is trying to do here.”
Dell’Anno said he will challenge the decisions, but he said the publication of the termination notice before his challenge is heard will do extensive damage to his brand. “Once this gets out, I will have utter chaos in these buildings,” he said. Next Step operates 22 other facilities in Massachusetts and a handful in New Hampshire and Maine.
The Worcester facility failed one of four audits dealing with infection control and other safety procedures and had perfect scores of 28 on the other three. The Wareham facility passed three of the four audits with scores of 27, 27, and 26, and failed a fourth with a score of 24.
Many other nursing homes had similar audit results and were not sent termination notices.
Eighteen nursing home facilities performed far worse – failing audits two, three, or four times. Town and Country Healthcare in Lowell, the other nursing home that received a termination notice, failed three audits and came close to failing on a fourth.
Dell’Anno said his facilities took the state audits very seriously. He said he hired a third-party firm to conduct audits prior to the state coming in to do its own audits.
Regarding staff testing for COVID-19, both of the Next Step facilities were deemed in compliance with 97 percent (Hermitage) and 93 percent (Wareham) of employees tested. Town and Country also passed, with 100 percent of employees tested.
Wareham had fewer than 10 cases of COVID-19 at its facility (Dell’Anno said it was three residents and one staff member) and no deaths, according to state records. Hermitage had more than 30 cases and 12 deaths.The results at Wareham and Hermitage are hardly out of line in a statewide industry where a large percentage of homes had more than 30 deaths and a handful had more than 60. Of all COVID-19 deaths in the state, 65 percent have occurred in nursing homes.
Dell’Anno said the task force looked at performance in the past, when his company was still turning the facilities around. He said when Next Step bought both facilities in 2017 they were in bad shape and he has spent considerable time and money bringing them back.