SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – After Northeast Health Group announced it was closing four long-term care nursing home facilities in western Massachusetts last week, State Rep. Bud Williams is urging the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to suspend a state mandate.

A state requirement that went into effect last year, limited the number of beds to two per room. According to testimony from Northeast Health Group to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, that policy would be “financially devastating.” The four facilities have nearly 450 beds with more than 300 elderly residents. 

“It’s a loss for… really loss for a plan. So, I think, take a pause, let’s look at it, and maybe let’s take the year and figure out what we do with these people, it’s going to be devastating. You’re talking about maybe people dying because of this,” said State Rep. Williams.

Testimony Before MDPH: LTCF Standards-Staffing and Rooms

Northeast Health Group impacted facilities:

• Chapin Center in Springfield
• Willimansett Center West in Chicopee
• Willimansett Center East in Chicopee
• Governor’s Center in Westfield

According to their websites, these facilities have stood in Hampden County for at least 30 years, offering everything from post-acute services to long-term care.

In a statement to 22News, the Florida-based group said in part, “It is with deep regret that the Northeast Health Group has given formal notice to the Department of Public Health of our intent to close [these four facilities].” Adding they are working with the state’s department of public health on a timeline for closures.

Springfield State Representative Bud Williams has written a letter to the interim Secretary of Health and Human Services Mary Beckman asking her to suspend the state mandate requiring nursing homes to limit bedrooms to two patients each and capping reimbursement rates for providers.

He says he wants the mandate suspended until March 1, 2024 “to allow the legislative delegation to fully explore options regarding both the mandate and the rate of reimbursement.”

“Dear Secretary Beckman, 

I contact you with great urgency regarding the closure of four, long-term care nursing facilities in western Massachusetts in June, displacing over 300 elderly residents. 

As you may be aware, Chapin Center in Springfield, Governor’s Center in Westfield, and Willimansett Center East and West, both in Chicopee, are scheduled to close due to a Department of Public Health regulation that mandates nursing homes to limit to two residents per bedroom and caps reimbursement rates for providers. 

At this time, I request the immediate suspension of this regulatory mandate until March 1, 2024, to allow the legislative delegation to fully explore options regarding both the mandate and the rate of reimbursement. 

Further, understanding Secretary Kate Walsh will be assuming her role on March 1st, it would be premature for the Healey-Driscoll Administration to proceed with the closure of these facilities without a full review of the regulation and the adverse consequences to the patients, the families, the employees, and the economic impact to the region, with a projected loss of 362 jobs, a major hit to the region. 

I would also appreciate a representative from EOHHS, if not the new Secretary, to conduct an on-site, open session at the impacted facilities with the residents, family members, staff, and legislators to gauge firsthand the impact of the closings, and then gauge if the regulations and rate of reimbursement are commensurate to the services provided.  

Also, be advised I intend to address this matter directly with the Governor and Lt. Governor this week in Boston. 

I thank you for your time and attention to this matter of importance to the citizens of western Massachusetts. Should you require additional information and/or have questions, please feel free to contact me directly at (413) 537-5130 or Bud.Williams@mahouse.gov.”

State Rep. Bud Williams

Standards for long-term care facilities

According to the Department of Public Health, all nursing homes must comply with the 2-bed maximum requirement, on or before April 30, 2022. If, despite a licensee’s good faith efforts to comply with the 2-bed requirement and through no fault on the part of the licensee, the licensee cannot fully comply with the 2-bed requirement by April 30, 2022, the licensee can submit an attestation provided by the Department attesting to its good faith efforts towards compliance and expected date to come into compliance.