Nursing homes in trouble

The University Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation declared bankruptcy in January, and the fate of its more than 100 residents is uncertain.
The University Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation declared bankruptcy in January, and the fate of its more than 100 residents is uncertain. Photo by Kamaria Greenfield.

Over 100 New Haven residents could lose their home next month, and as a consequence, 150 more could lose their jobs.

The University Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation declared bankruptcy Jan. 10, becoming the most recent addition to a growing list of financially unstable nursing facilities near New Haven. At a hearing in Connecticut Superior Court on Tuesday to determine whether this nursing home — in addition to three others also owned by Omega Healthcare Investors — will close, the State Department of Social Services moved for a continuance of the hearing to April. This delay will give an interested buyer, a nursing home operator based in Florida, time to decide if she will take over the facility. Despite her interest, the Department of Social Services said there was “slim hope that these homes can be saved” at the hearing on Tuesday.

The closing of University nursing home would not bode well for the city’s employment prospects.

Deborah Chernoff, communications director for New England Health Care Employees Union 1199, which represents 100 of the nursing facility’s workers, said that if University closes, 150 employees will be out of work.

“New Haven can’t afford to lose these jobs — jobs that won’t come back,” she said.

University nursing facility had net annual losses of $88,248, said court receiver Phyllis A. Belmonte, who is assessing the home’s post-bankruptcy plans. Still, out of the four Connecticut nursing homes under review, University saw the lowest loss, with another facility losing as much as $2,177,146 in one year.

Belmonte said in her analysis that University cannot provide adequate care to residents under current financial constraints.

University Skilled Nursing declined to comment on the issue and referred to Belmonte, who did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The possible closing of University may negatively affect the well-being of its residents, Chernoff said.

“This place is their home, this is where they’re living,” she said. “There is tremendous panic among residents when there is the possibility of the nursing home closing.”

She said that residents develop strong relationships with other residents and staff and that moving to another nursing home disrupts these “vital” relationships.

University cannot close until each resident has been relocated to a new nursing home. Currently, 47 of the 54 available beds currently accessible in New Haven nursing homes belong to the Jewish Home for the Aged. But the home declared bankruptcy in February and may also close in the coming months. If so, only seven beds will be open in New Haven and a majority of the 105 University Skilled Nursing residents would have to find care outside the city.

Medicaid insures that the residents will have a new home, but residents do not control where they are placed. The New England Health Care Employees Union said that 81 percent of University residents currently qualify for Medicaid. Chernoff said this is a serious issue for residents’ families in New Haven who do not own cars and have no means of visiting their loved ones.

“Even 10 miles can be a difficult distance to travel,” said Chernoff.

The Department of Social Services in their court motion argued that family travel issues should not be of such concern, as they believe that a sale of JHA to another buyer is “very likely” to occur.

New Haven State Rep. Patricia Dillon, who visited the nursing home five months ago, said at the time that it was in “pretty good shape” and stressed that it was not the old, aging building people often imagine. She said she was unsure of its current condition.

According to the Department of Social Services, the other nursing homes at stake at the hearing Tuesday were Rocky Hill, Bishop’s Corner and Soundview.

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