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I-Team: Advocates say nursing home crisis could be looming

I-Team: Advocates say nursing home crisis could be looming
I-Team: Advocates say nursing home crisis could be looming 02:52

DEDHAM - Residents at Dedham Healthcare say they have complained for years about the unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

One long term patient who didn't want to be identified told the I-Team said, "it's been a nightmare."

"Dirty linen, bugs everywhere, the food is spoiled and expired, the place has cockroaches, mice. I've been bitten before by the bugs," the patient said. "There's people in here that are your loved ones that are 80-90 years some with severe mental issues, severe medical issues that are being neglected."

The nursing home is owned by Next Step Healthcare, LLC. Ranked well below average by Medicare, it has a long-documented history of poor conditions. But that is not why it is closing. The company told residents it was shutting down at the end of the year due to staffing and money woes.

Arlene Germaine is with Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. "It's very troubling, it's a disaster for residents even though the care is not optimal there, they are receiving care in their community a short distance from loved ones," Germaine said. "They could be moved far away to caregivers who don't know them. It is an eviction, it's terrifying to residents."

Next Step Healthcare also owns 24 long term care facilities in Massachusetts. The I-Team found 17 are rated below average by Medicare. In 2021 it closed two of its nursing homes, and recently told the state it plans to close three more.

Paul Lanzikos with Dignity Alliance of Massachusetts says, "I think we are at the very beginning of a trend that is going to accelerate over the next several years."

The advocacy group warns with aging nursing home buildings, ongoing worker shortages and a decreased demand, Massachusetts could see more nursing homes shutting down.

"If we have more and more facilities abruptly closing, with no prior notice, with no preparation for residents, family and staff, yes, that's a crisis," Lanzikos said. "Can we prevent that? Absolutely. It's going to take commitment on the part of policymakers, the legislature and advocates in the community."

WBZ reached out to Next Step Healthcare for comment, but the company did not respond.

With just four months to find a new place to live, long term residents are worried. "My heath has gotten pretty bad," the resident said. "Nobody knows anything at all. I feel like I'm gonna be displaced. There's 120 people. I have no clue."

On a call, Next Step Healthcare told families it will help them find new placements. Any relocation plans have to be approved by the Department of Health. The state says since 2020 nearly two dozen nursing homes have closed.

Tim Foley, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, released this statement:

"Next Step Healthcare's announcement is reflective of the deep-rooted issues plaguing the industry, that includes inadequate wages, short staffing, and over-reliance on temporary staffing. These closures reinforce the need to implement recommendations by the 2020 Nursing Home Task Force, to ensure that any 'right-sizing' of the industry does not negatively impact residents or their caregivers. During this transitional period, we will work closely with Next Step Healthcare to help maintain quality resident care and ensure 1199SEIU members are able to find new jobs and remain in the long-term care industry, where they are greatly needed." 

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