Clients, family urge HEALTH to keep Pawtuxet Rehab open


The Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center is in danger of being shut down by the Department of Health (HEALTH), but some clients and their families are urging HEALTH to reconsider.

“They work with great care, respect and affection,” said Ed Rondeau, whose mother has been at the center for eight years.

Rondeau’s mother, 95, is blind and arthritic.

Rondeau said he cannot account for the non-compliance orders drafted by HEALTH.

“I come here at odd times – 11 p.m. or 5 a.m.,” he said. “I’ve never witnessed [the staff] treating her with anything but loving care.”

Prior to Rondeau’s mother entering the facility, his father resided there for two years. When Rondeau’s mother had to be hospitalized and cared for, she was sent to Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation. Eventually, Rondeau planned to return his mother to her home and have her privately cared for.

“But she wanted to stay,” he said. “She felt safe here.”

Other clients feel the same way.

Helen Carroll, 91, has been a resident at Pawtuxet Village for five years.

“This is my home, I say hi to everybody,” she said.

Several years ago Carroll’s son, a Providence detective, became ill and was transferred to Pawtuxet Village. He was there for a month before he died, but Carroll said he got great care while there.

“I was really amazed at the health they gave Billy,” she said.

Carroll didn’t walk or talk when she first entered the Care and Rehab center. Eventually, she regained mobility and began to open up socially. Now she talks with everyone who lives there, saying hello to everyone she passes in the hallway.

Susan LaNinfa, the Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Administrator, said Carroll is the center’s mother figure. She cleans up the common areas and says goodnight to the two parakeets that live in the front lobby. She even shuts off the lights at night and tells LaNinfa to go home.

Carroll said it would be “very drastic” to have to move, and it would make her “very physically and mentally upset.”

“I wouldn’t get the care I get here any place else,” she said.

HEALTH’s intent to close the facility comes after a long history of non-compliance with state and federal regulations. A surprise inspection in February yielded another order of compliance from HEALTH, and an intent to close the facility was issued earlier this month. By executive order Mayor Scott Avedisian has established an ad hoc committee should HEALTH need assistance in ensuring the safety of the Center’s residents.

LaNinfa said HEALTH’s findings were based on a small sampling of clients, not the entirety of the patients.

“If one in 20 people had a specific problem, it’s sufficient for a citation,” she said.

The center has been cited for medication dosage problems in the past, and more recently was written up for non-compliance with pain management, range of motion practices, bed sore treatment and fall prevention.

LaNinfa said the high volume of patients makes the odds of a mistake easier.

“Some patients have 9 medications,” she said.

Multiply that by the number of patients and the steps in each dosage administration and the probability of making a single error is high, said LaNinfa. She said the facility has been working to correct the problems cited in their order of compliance.

LaNinfa has been the center’s administrator since December, but has worked in nursing home administration since 1990 both in Rhode Island and elsewhere.

“I accepted the position knowing that there’s a transition,” she said of the prior non-compliance orders from that were handed down to her.

“My hope is that the state would give myself and my team a chance to show we can make a difference,” she said.

LaNinfa said the center has about 100 employees; all of who would be scrambling to find a new job should the center close.

“Given the unemployment rate, they’re going to be unemployed for a long time,” she said.

In addition to HEALTH’s intent to pull the facility’s license, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has pulled the facility’s certification, and all Medicare patients will have to be removed from the center 30 days after April 12. LaNinfa said the majority of clients are on Medicaid. These patients will be slowly transitioned from the center according to HEALTH.

LaNinfa said transitioning Medicare and Medicaid patients would be a gradual process.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll stop doing what we do,” she said. “As long as there are patients in this building, we have to continue to care for them.”

Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehab is currently caring for 94 patients.

Family members of clients are concerned about where their loved ones will go if the facility is closed.

“You’re going to have a 95-year-old, blind, arthritic woman packed up and moved,” said Rondeau. “I have no idea where’d she go. Would they just warehouse them somewhere?”

Mary Apici, whose mother has been a resident since 2006, said it would be terrible if her mother had to be moved, and that the implication it would be easy is untrue.

“That’s a very cold statement,” said Apici. “It’s hard to change when you’re older.”

Shirley Dorman has been at the center for five years, and said for the most part, her experience there has been good. Before a hip replacement left her bed ridden, Dorman was a nurse at Rhode Island Hospital for 28 years. Prior to entering the Pawtuxet Village facility, Dorman was shuffled around other nursing homes, and said she had some horrible experiences.

“There were rats in my room in some places,” she said.

But Dorman said that was never the case at Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation.

Dorman said she would be devastated if she had to leave her current home.

Another anonymous resident said he thinks there are other nursing homes that should be shut down, but not Pawtuxet Village.

“It’s all politics,” he said. “I don’t want to see these older people lose the place they consider home.”

Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation will have a final chance to plea their case at a hearing on or soon after March 23.


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