NE Health Center head unhappy about nursing home closing

  • A public hearing about the closure of New England Health Center was held this week in this administrative building, which was the home of Christine Bednarski, the original owner when the facility was Cozy Corner. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • FILE PHOTO  FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/31/2018 11:07:35 AM

SUNDERLAND — The administrator of New England Health Center says “a variety of bad decisions, mixed with bad press” has resulted in the impending closure of the nursing home at 61 Old Amherst Road.

John Danforth used a public hearing Tuesday to describe the unhappiness he has felt since the decision to close was announced about a month ago, and he expressed solidarity with anyone angry the facility is shutting down. He said the responsibility of dealing with disappointed residents and their families is the “heavy-hearted task that the owners have burdened me with.”

The facility, formerly Cozy Corner Nursing Home, is owned by Synergy Health Centers of Toms River, N.J., which purchased it in 2012. Danforth told The Greenfield Recorder it is likely Synergy purchased too many buildings in eastern Massachusetts and became overwhelmed. He said the negative press he referred to was an array of statewide coverage related to Synergy-owned facilities, including one in Salem where an 81-year-old man shot and killed himself in 2016.

That same year, Woodbriar Health Center in Wilmington was fined $288,400 for safety and health violations related to the deaths of two residents, and Braemoor Health Center in Brockton was fined $200,000 and ordered not to accept new patients because of an “immediate jeopardy” finding triggered by a failure to respond to a heart attack and a case of respiratory arrest.

Calls to Synergy were not returned.

The meeting, held in an administrative building that once served as the home of the Bednarski family, Cozy Corner’s original owners, was led by Sherman Lohnes and Stephen Davis of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Following the public hearing, the department has 14 days to review the nursing home’s closure plan and the public comments received. It can then issue approval or request additional information from the facility about the draft closure plan, if necessary.

Brenda Coyle and her cousin attended the public hearing, because Coyle’s younger sister, Joan Lastowski, 66, lived at New England Health Center from July until Tuesday, when she was moved to the Center for Extended Care at Amherst.

Natalie Patterson, apparently the only resident to attend the public hearing, said she went to vent. She said the impending closure is “very heart-wrenching for me,” because she was thrilled to move into New England Health Center a year ago.

“Packing it up again is very difficult,” she told Lohnes and Davis.

After the meeting, Patterson said she planned to move to a facility in Chicopee this week, after turning 81.

“This is quite a birthday present,” she said sarcastically. “I really don’t know what is the worst part of this. I’ve moved many, many times.”

Patterson said she chose New England Health Center because it allows smoking — the same reason she picked the facility in Chicopee.

Danforth said the New England Health Center will close no later than Feb. 2, though it will most likely be sooner, if the residents can be moved out before then. He said 23 residents have moved out since the news broke. He said 16 remain and Dawn Day, the director of nursing, said all but two have solidified other living arrangements.

“I think no one really wants to leave here — staff or residents,” Day said.

Danforth and Day said New England Health Center has a great record of care. They told a story of bringing a male resident — a military mechanic during the Korean War — and his grandson to an air show at Westover Air Reserve Base over the summer.

“That grandson said it was the best day of his life. And then (the resident) died, like, within a week,” Day said. “But it was beautiful.”

Danforth said they also take residents to Look Park in Northampton and Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in Deerfield.

“We do really good things with these residents,” he said.

Danforth said New England Health Center hosted a jobs fair and invited area nursing homes so employees could get help finding new jobs. He and Day said there have also been workshops on how to sign up for unemployment benefits.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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