Officials and residents packed the Boston City Council chamber on Tuesday night, yet the operator of the North End Nursing Home said it still plans to close down the 140-bed facility in about a year.
For its part, the Boston Redevelopment Authority confirmed that restrictions on the property, designated under urban renewal, must be used for a nursing home and the BRA does not intend to relax those restrictions.
North End residents, especially those with family members in the nursing facility, spoke with passion and anger about the closing of the nursing home and its devastating impact on the neighborhood and its elderly residents. Those sentiments were echoed by the hearing sponsor, City Councilor Sal LaMattina, among others councilors who attended including Tito Jackson, Michael Flaherty and Annissa Essaibi George. Also at the hearing were State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, State Sen. Joe Boncore and representatives from Mayor Walsh’s office.
David Storto, President of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network (Partners Healthcare), said the company will file in the next few months with the State Department of Public Health to close the North End and West Roxbury nursing home / rehab facilities. Patients will be offered space in a renovated Brighton property in about a year. Storto’s testimony emphasized the deteriorating condition of the property, similar to statements made at a June 2016 meeting in the North End.
Still, North End residents and its local officials vowed to keep up the fight. A petition has over 2,000 signatures while a neighborhood steering committee works with legal advisors on how to preserve the nursing home in the North End.
Support from the BRA’s Director, Brian Golden, appeared strong at the hearing. Although Spaulding/Partners cannot be forced to keep open the facility, the property itself must be used for nursing care, according to the BRA. This restriction severely reduces the possibility that other uses, such as condos, would be approved at the location. It also opens the door for another nursing home operator to purchase the property and take over operations.
Opened in 1983 in response to increasing community need for the elderly, the facility was originally owned and operated by the North End Community Health Center (now North End Waterfront Health). The center’s mission was to provide lifecycle care for residents. The nursing home’s location in the neighborhood was selected so that longtime residents could stay in the North End while their families could frequently visit.
In 2000, Partners Healthcare came into the facility and took over full operations in 2001. At the same time, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital introduced therapy services, diversifying the operations beyond being a nursing home. There are currently sixty beds dedicated to long-term nursing care. Over the years, Spaulding / Partners facility has gradually increased the rehabilitation beds at the expense of nursing care, in an effort to boost profitability. Families have been told that the facility is still not meeting the owners economic needs and needs expensive renovations.