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West Hartford Nursing Home Petition to Close Approved by Department of Social Services

Hughes Health and Rehabilitation, 29 Highland Street in West Hartford, has filed a petition with the state to close. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Hughes Health and Rehabilitation filed a petition with the Connecticut Department of Social Services indicating the desire to close the facility, and that request was granted Friday.

By Ronni Newton

Hughes Health and Rehabilitation, a five-star-rated nursing home that has operated at 29 Highland Street in West Hartford for more than 50 years, filed a petition on March 30 with the state Department of Social Services (DSS) indicating plans to close the facility, and that request was officially granted on Friday.

Samuel Flaxman, owner of the the facility and president of the Hughes Health and Rehabilitation Board of Directors, filed the petition and also informed residents of the facility of the plans to close. The petition to close stated, “This decision has not come lightly and comes after numerous attempts to revitalize the center’s declining census. The declining census as well as staffing needs and excessive cost increases have directly attributed to increased losses not covered by Connecticut’s reimbursement program and the growing trend towards the use of home and community-based services.”

“We require in Connecticut that nursing homes must submit a request to the Department of Social Services in order to close,” State Long-Term Care Ombudsperson Mairead Painter told We-Ha.com when the petition was submitted. The state has 30 days to make a decision on the petition, and if it’s approved, then the facility will need to put together a closure packet for all residents – who will be given a 60-day notice of involuntary discharge.

“The closure of a skilled nursing facility is never easy, especially for the residents,” DSS Commissioner Andrea Barton Reeves said in a statement Friday. “DSS’ priority is to work with the Long Term Care Ombudsman to ensure that all residents can be placed in suitable housing and that Hughes continues to follow all state regulations and meet residents’ needs while this process moves forward.”

Painter said last month that she was personally saddened by the request because Hughes Health and Rehabilitation is a smaller, family-owned community nursing home that has consistently had good outcomes for its residents. “This is extremely sad and unfortunate,” she said. “We’ve had good feedback from residents and families,” she said.

West Hartford resident Tom Mahon, whose mother will turn 92 in June and has been a resident at Hughes Health and Rehabilitation for about a year, had previously praised the facility for the excellent care provided to his mother. “I was there Saturday and it’s like a ghost town now,” he said.

Mahon said his mother is being relocated this year to West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation, which, like Hughes, also has a five-star rating from Medicare.gov.

In a statement Friday, Painter expressed her sympathy to the affected families. “I understand this is a difficult time for everyone involved, and I want to express my sympathy to all those affected by this news. We will ensure that residents’ rights are protected throughout this process. We are committed to providing assistance throughout this transition, including helping residents and family members receive all the information they need to make an informed decision about their future,” she said.

Hughes Health and Rehabilitation, 29 Highland Street in West Hartford, has filed a petition with the state to close. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The announcement from a DSS spokesperson noted that state law and regulations require Hughes Health to communicate the specific closure plans to residents and their families. A continuum of care is required, and the services must be provided and the facility kept open until all residents have secured a new situation and have relocated.

Hughes will be working with relevant state agencies, including the DSS “Money Follows the Person” program and the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman to ensure services continue and that families are able to find alternative nursing facilities or at home care services.

Those with questions or concerns can reach out to the Ombudsman’s office at 1-866-388-1888.

The official decision issued Friday by DSS states that Painter submitted a letter on April 14 to DSS on behalf of residents and family members that “discussed the high-quality care provided by Hughes and expressed concern that the Facility may close.” A family member also submitted a letter, the decision states.

Hughes Health and Rehabilitation has 170 beds, according to information on file with DSS, and as of Feb. 1, 2023 – the last report prior to the filing of the petition to close –  just 87 of the beds were occupied. Some families immediately began making alternative plans for care when the rumors of closing began, and in March the census was down to 81, the most recent report filed with the state indicates.

The same report indicates available beds at other nursing homes, including the four others located in West Hartford, but those facilities are occupied at a higher percentage. Hughes is contracted with the Veterans Administration which adds an extra layer of concern about the plans to close because those receiving services from the VA can only move to another facility that is also contracted with the VA, Painter said.

DSS states in its decision that the criteria for closure have been met, however. Those criteria include demonstrating that the facility is not viable based on actual and projected operating loss, has an occupancy of less than 75% of capacity, closure is consistent with “bed need by geographical region” which indicates that there are more than 1,300 available beds in 70 nursing homes within 10 miles of West Hartford, and is in compliance with various Social Security Act requirements, and “is not providing special services that would go unmet if the facility closes.”

According to DSS, Hughes Health’s “Annual Cost Reports reflected total occupancy of 57.2% in 2022, 58.4% in 2021 65.6% in 2020, 79.2% in 2019. The occupancy standard for Connecticut Medicaid rate setting purposes is 90%.”

The facility’s financial reports indicate a reported loss of approximately $687,000 for Fiscal Year 2022, and a loss of approximately $695,000 for the first four months of the current fiscal year, with losses projected to continue.

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