HealthBridge seeks hearing to contest nursing home closure denial

HealthBridge Management, which is seeking to close the Wethersfield nursing home it operates, has asked for a hearing to contest the denial of an application to shut down the facility.

Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby denied the application to close Wethersfield Health Care Center last week, saying the company had not provided enough financial information.

Bremby had asked for audited financial statements of Care Realty, LLC, which owns the operating company that holds the Medicare and Medicaid certification for the nursing home. The company offered to make them available for review for four hours, as long as they were not included as part of the application and the department did not retain any portion of the statements, according to Bremby’s decision, which said those conditions were not acceptable.

In a statement Saturday, HealthBridge spokesman Ed Remillard said the information the Department of Social Services requested was not relevant to the nursing home’s operations.

“We have never seen DSS make such a broad request for financial information,” he said. “We understand why DSS would need financial information on the Health Care Center itself, and we complied fully with those requirements. But we think it is both unnecessary and improper for DSS to demand financial information about related but distinct private businesses – information that would be made public as part of the review process.”

Remillard said the company gave DSS all the financial data necessary to make a decision, and said the company expects the denial to be overturned, allowing the nursing home to close.

HealthBridge’s request to close the 210-bed nursing home drew opposition from residents and the union representing workers at the facility, the New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, SEIU.

HealthBridge and the union have been engaged in contentious negotiations on contracts for workers at six Connecticut facilities operated by the company, and the union has suggested that the move to close Wethersfield was aimed at influencing negotiations. HealthBridge has said it needed to close the facility because of financial losses, having too few residents, inadequate Medicaid and Medicare payments, and an oversupply of nursing home beds in the area.

Since HealthBridge announced plans to close the nursing home last fall, the number of residents has fallen from 182 to 92, and Remillard said last week that the company planned to move forward with layoffs because, with the reduced number of residents, about 145 workers are no longer needed.