The Department of Health announced Tuesday that the Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center had signed a consent agreement to voluntarily close. The news comes about a month after the Department of Health (HEALTH) announced their intent to revoke the center’s license, following a February inspection that found recurring state health code violations.
The 130-bed center is now home to 78 patients that will all have to be removed from the facility and relocated to new care centers.
“This facility is the residents’ home and we take that very seriously,” said Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Steven Costantino.
Soon the Department of Health will begin to transfer the clients from their current facility to another one, a process the patients and their families are going to be an integral part of, said Costantino.
The Alliance for Better Long Term Care will assist the Department of Health in the closure process.
“Harborside and Genesis will work collaboratively with the Alliance to make this transition as smooth as possible for all the residents,” said Jeanne Moore, spokesperson for Genesis ElderCare, which temporarily managed the center before closing. “Our priority is the care and well-being of the residents here at the center. We understand that this is a challenging time and we have assured them that they will continue to receive compassionate care and all the current services until the closure date.”
Fine said the exact date the center closes its doors will be determined by the center’s formal closure plan.
“From my past experiences, the time will be measured in weeks and months, not years,” he said.
The administrators of the center met with families Tuesday afternoon to discuss the process.
Costantino said the outcome is not ideal, and that HEALTH strives to keep every center up and running safely.
“But at the end of the day we have to ensure the health and safety of the residents,” he said.
Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehab has a history of non-compliance with state and federal regulations that date back to 2007. The most recent inspection of the center on Feb. 19 unearthed continuing problems with pain management, medication, bedsore treatment and range of motion practices. Following HEALTH’s intent to revoke the center’s license, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid pulled Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehab’s certification.
In order to mitigate their problems, Pawtuxet Village brought in a third party to manage the facility on March 26. That company, Genesis ElderCare Network Services, Inc., evaluated the center and determined they would need a longer timeframe than allotted by the state to reinstate lasting standards of compliance.
“They tried and we tried together,” said Dr. Michael Fine, director of HEALTH at Tuesday’s press conference. “We knew it wasn’t working and wasn’t changing. There are no bad actors here, just a bad outcome.”
The last time a center closed voluntarily due to irreversible quality of care issues was 2009.
“They do get to a point where it’s almost not fixable,” said Raymond Rusin, director of the Office of Facilities Regulation at HEALTH.
Those at HEALTH say cases like Pawtuxet Village’s become PR issues – as more people hear about the problems the center is having, the less people enroll as clients or apply to be employees. The result is a downward spiral.
“The real challenge is to recruit and maintain professional staff,” said Fine, an issue that greatly contributed to the center’s closure.
Despite the label of “voluntary,” Fine described the closure as “mutual.”
“We were open to other options,” he said. “They wanted a new management company, but we weren’t convinced [we should shut them down] yet.”
Mayor Scott Avedisian said he had several discussions with Fine about the center. Avedisian didn’t want HEALTH to close down the center, because the center would have to turn over its license for the 130 beds on site. A decade-old moratorium prohibits the licensure of new beds in the state. But because the center volunteered to close, there is still a possibility it can reopen under new management as a functional nursing home in the future. The center plans to hold onto the license and sell it to a new managing company. If they can sell it, the beds will stay in Warwick. If they are unable to sell it in time, the license will be returned to HEALTH, and the director can choose to keep a percentage of the beds.
For now, Avedisian is hopeful the center that 78 people call “home” will be able to reopen.
“Hopefully we can quickly get them a place, and have them come back,” said Avedisian of the current clients.
Despite the closure and dispersal of residents, Fine said the Pawtuxet Village case is a testament to the workings of HEALTH.
“The system worked and it worked really well,” said Fine. “You didn’t hear about deaths … it’s an impressive process.”