Wethersfield nursing home lays off 74

The operator of a Wethersfield nursing home has laid off 74 workers and cut the hours of another 44.

The number of residents at Wethersfield Health Care Center has fallen to 92, down from 182 last fall, shortly before the home’s operator, HealthBridge Management, announced that it was seeking to close the facility. The state Department of Social Services denied HealthBridge’s application to close, and the company has asked for a hearing to contest the denial.

HealthBridge is amid a contentious contract dispute with the union representing workers at six of its Connecticut facilities, the New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, SEIU. Of the laid off workers, 47 were union members, as were the 44 who had “significant reductions in work hours,” according to HealthBridge.

“We regret the impact of this reduction in staff on our employees, who have provided outstanding health care and service for many years,” Ed Remillard, a spokesman for the facility, said in a statement. “But with so few remaining patients and residents, we could not continue to operate at current staffing levels of nearly 280 employees. We gave the employees as much notice as possible. With their skills and experience, we expect them to have good luck finding positions with other employers.”

HealthBridge has argued that the need to close the 210-bed facility stemmed from having too few residents, Medicaid costs that don’t cover expenses and cuts in Medicare reimbursements. But the union questioned the need to close and suggested that the move to shutter the facility was aimed at influencing contract talks.

In denying the request to close, DSS Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby said the company had failed to provide financial information about a related company.