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Three Mass. nursing homes get termination notice, may be forced to close

MassHealth issued initial termination notices to three private nursing homes on Monday.Ocskay Bence -

MassHealth issued initial termination notices to three private nursing homes on Monday, accusing the facilities of failing to meet expectations during the coronavirus pandemic and of having historic records of poor performance.

Hermitage Healthcare in Worcester, Town and Country Health Care Center in Lowell, and Wareham Healthcare received the notices, the first step toward being eliminated from MassHealth, the state-run Medicaid program. Such a move could cause the facilities to close, according to a statement from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Next Step Healthcare, the parent company of Hermitage Healthcare, said in a statement Monday night that 12 residents at the facility had died but an unspecified number of others had recovered. Next Step said the Department of Public Health had found Hermitage Healthcare to be in adherence with infection control standards on three out of four recent visits.


“We were therefore extremely surprised and disappointed to learn from DPH that they had begun the process to revoke our participation in the MassHealth program,” the company said.

Next Step is also the parent company of Wareham Healthcare. In a separate statement, the company said that facility has had only four confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents and staff, all of whom have fully recovered. Next Step said DPH had also found Wareham Health to meet standards on three out of four recent visits.

The company said it would appeal both decisions and would work with DPH to address its concerns.

Administrators at Town and Country could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

State officials did not provide detailed information on the number of coronavirus cases at the three homes, but state data released last week provide a limited sense of the outbreaks at the facilities.

Hermitage Healthcare, which is licensed for 101 beds, has seen 12 deaths from COVID-19 and a total of fewer than 30 cases. Town and Country, which is licensed for 80 beds, had 10 deaths and fewer than 30 cases. Wareham Healthcare, which is licensed for 175 beds, had between one and 10 cases and no reported deaths.


The data show that Hermitage Healthcare had tested 97 percent of its staff for the virus. Town and Country had tested 100 percent of its employees. Wareham Healthcare had tested 93 percent.

Hermitage Healthcare and Wareham Healthcare were both included on a list of chronically low-quality and low-occupancy facilities in a report the state Nursing Facility Task Force issued in January, before the coronavirus became a global pandemic.

Since then, many nursing homes in Massachusetts and across the country have been hard hit by COVID-19, which is especially dangerous for those over 60 and those with existing health conditions.

Nationwide, there had been more than 150,000 confirmed cases of the virus among nursing home residents as of July 19, and more than 40,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Massachusetts, state officials have implemented an accountability strategy for nursing homes and begun infection control audits of the facilities, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services said. In the first round of audits, 63 percent of facilities met the standards, and by the fourth round, 94 percent passed muster, the agency said.

But the three facilities that received notices Monday have not adhered to basic infection control practices, such as separating infected residents from the general population and using protective gear properly, the agency said.


The facilities have had dangerously inadequate staffing ratios “that jeopardized the health, safety, and welfare of residents” and have sometimes refused state support in addressing “substantial outbreaks and critical staffing shortages, underscoring a lack of management and judgment,” the agency said.

The nursing homes will have an opportunity to respond to the violations identified in the notices and have the right to a hearing to dispute the allegations from MassHealth, the agency said.

MassHealth will offer support for its members living at the facility who wish to move out while the process is ongoing, the agency said, and it will ensure that residents are safely moved out of any facility that is terminated from the program.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him @jeremycfox.