Nursing homes shutter amidst corruption, financial chaos

Nursing homes in Massachusetts continue their steady descent into chaos, leaving seniors struggling to find adequate care as more facilities shutter, and fewer affordable beds are available.

Five nursing homes owned by Skyline Healthcare are shutting down in Massachusetts, as employees miss weeks’ worth of paychecks, and seniors endure lower quality care standards stemming from employees leaving after not being paid.

The closure was first reported by the Standard-Times on Wednesday, when a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed that Skyline would voluntarily surrender the licenses of all of their Massachusetts nursing homes. Bedford Gardens Care & Rehabilitation Center, Bedford Village Care & Rehabilitation Center, Rockdale Care & Rehabilitation Center in New Bedford, Dighton Care & Rehabilitation in Dighton, and Highland Manor Care & Rehabilitation Center in Fall River are all shutting down, and their residents relocated.

Bedford Gardens, a 111-bed facility, had started cramming three people to a room after it had to close its third-floor last weekend from lack of staff, according to Bedford Gardens director Steven Haase.

Employees, some of whom have complained to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, had dealt with bounced checks and late payment for some time. Haase told news outlets that he’s lost touch with Skyline, which is based in New Jersey. The company is no stranger to failure — it had similar payroll problems in Kansas and Nebraska facilities, causing shutdowns.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is also investigating whether Skyline owner Joseph Schwartz committed fraud. In Massachusetts, a long-term care ombudsman selected by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs will work to relocate residents to other facilities.

The situation is not completely out of left field. Twenty Massachusetts nursing homes shut down in 2018, with over 1,900 beds lost to vulnerable seniors.

In a hearing in early April, Massachusetts Senior Care Association said up to 35 more nursing homes are at risk of closing this year due to financial problems. The group is promoting a bill that would give nursing homes an additional $70 million annually from state and federal money. The state currently provides nursing homes with less money for long-term care covered by Medicaid, but still provided them with $1.4 billion in 2018.

Advocates propose improving reimbursement from MassHealth, which covers about 30,000 people in long-term care facilities in the state.

State Sen. Harriette Chandler said at the hearing that the gap in coverage between what the state pays and what it actually costs to provides care creates an annual loss of about $900,000 per facility.

The burden of that cost falls primarily on patients, who pay out of pocket.



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