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West Hartford Nursing Home Plans to Close

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 has filed a petition with the Connecticut Department of Social Services indicating the desire to close the facility. [Updated, April 3, 2023]

By Ronni Newton

Hughes Health and Rehabilitation, a five-star-rated nursing home that has operated in West Hartford for more than 50 years, has filed a petition with the state Department of Social Services (DSS) indicating plans to close the facility.

The letter was filed with the state on March 30, and residents and their families and/or responsible parties also received a letter dated March 30 from Samuel Flaxman, president of the Hughes Health and Rehabilitation Board of Directors, informing them of the plans.

“The decision to close Hughes Health and Rehabilitation, Inc. comes after numerous attempts to revitalize the center’s declining census,” Flaxman’s letter states. “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.”

State Long-Term Care Ombudsperson Mairead Painter, whose office is part of the Department of Aging and Disability Services, and who was copied on the letter from Flaxman, confirmed to We-Ha.com that the petition had been submitted, and said representatives from her office began meeting with staff and others at Hughes Health and Rehabilitation on Friday.

Painter also sent a letter to residents, family members and/or responsible parties notifying them that the Long-Term Care Ombudperson Program would be involved throughout the process and “is responsible for ensuring that residents’ welfare and rights are protected.”

“We require in Connecticut that nursing homes must submit a request to the Department of Social Services in order to close,” Painter said, and Hughes Health and Rehabilitation has filed an expedited request. That doesn’t mean the closing will take place imminently, however, because 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.

“They have to have a safe and appropriate discharge plan,” Painter said, and the residents have the right to appeal. The DSS works with the residents to find the best option for their continued care.

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

Hughes Health and Rehabilitation has 170 beds, according to information on file with DSS, and as of the most recent report dated Feb. 1, 2023, just 87 of the beds were occupied. 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.

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, said he received the emailed letter from Flaxman Thursday evening just before 8 p.m. It was the first official notice he had received about the petition to close, although he said there had been rumors circulating for a few weeks about a possible sale of the facility. A few staff members have recently left, he said.

Mahon said while the Hughes Health and Rehabilitation building – a portion of which was built in 1966, and a portion which dates back to 1900 – is extremely outdated, the staff is wonderful. “The only thing that the place has going for it is that the care is excellent,” he said, but he said the appearance of the building may be a reason why the census is low.

“The reason why we overlooked that is that the care is extraordinary,” Mahon said, and that’s what he considers most important.

His mother has advanced dementia, Mahon said, but the nurses and CNAs at Hughes are great and have an established rhythm in caring for her. Hughes Health and Rehabilitation has a five-star rating from Medicare.gov.

“What I’ve heard is this isn’t going to be a quick thing,” Mahon said about the closing of Hughes Health and Rehabilitation, but said his family has started thinking about alternative nursing homes.

Overall, however, there is a broad choice of care options in Connecticut, including an expansion of in-home care services. Because many more people are choosing to age in place, Painter said, “We do anticipate that will likely lead to a contraction in the number of [nursing home] beds in our state.”

Over the past few years, only a handful of nursing homes in Connecticut have closed and surrendered their licenses. There were four closures in 2021, including Regal Care in Greenwich which had a ceiling collapse. In 2022 Grove Manor Nursing Home in Waterbury closed, and Quinnipiac Valley Center (QVC) in Wallingford was shuttered by the state Department of Public Health “for repeated and ongoing failure to correct serious and widespread health and safety issues.”

According to DSS, since 1995 there have been two nursing homes in West Hartford that have closed. Mercyknowll, which had a capacity of 59 beds, closed in 2006, and Bishops Corner Skilled Nursing closed a 130-bed facility in 2011.

While Hughes Health and Rehabilitation is an older building, the facility has consistently received high ratings and awards, including a Gold – Excellence in Quality Award from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) for superior performance in the long term and post-acute care profession.

Painter said it makes her sad because Hughes Health and Rehabilitation is a smaller, family-owned community nursing home, and 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.”

Representatives from the state DSS and DPH, as well as the Ombudsperson Program, have scheduled a meeting with residents and their family members/responsible parties for Monday afternoon, and will address the many questions they may have.

“We’ll do whatever we can to support the residents and family members,” Painter said.

Mahon said it would be so nice if “someone swoops in” to buy Hughes Health and Rehabilitation and keeps it open, but he knows it’s not likely. “It’s just a shame,” he said.

Flaxman’s letter advises residents, families and responsible parties that placement coordinators will assist with finding alternatives. “While you are not required to move at this time, our placement coordinators will be available to ensure a seamless transition should you choose to voluntarily transfer. Please be rest assured that no resident shall be involuntarily transferred or discharged from the facility pursuant to state and federal law. Additionally, all residents have the right to appeal any proposed transfer or discharge,” the letter states.

Flaxman’s letter states that “all care and services” will continue uninterrupted, but Mahon said he has heard that gaps in staffing of nurses and CNAs will be filled by an outside agency, which won’t be the same.

A spokesperson from DSS on Monday shared with We-Ha.com the letter submitted to the agency by Timothy Mikita, a senior manager at Marcum, which filed the petition for closure on behalf of Hughes Health and Rehabilitation. The document stated that the facility “is not viable based upon actual and projected operating losses. Extreme decline in census and inflated costs has resulted in a loss of approximately $687,000 for FYE 2022. The Facility has seen a loss of approximately $695,000 in the first four months of FYE 2023 and these losses are projected to continue throughout the year.” The petition noted that the occupancy rate in the previous fiscal year was 57.16%, and for the first four months of the current fiscal year is 51.47%.

Hughes Health and Rehabilitation Administrator Denise Kelly-Bryan did not respond to a message left by We-Ha.com on Friday for comment. Flaxman did not respond to a written request Friday for comment either.

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