Metro

State to restore holding of beds

Nursing home program funded

The Patrick administration has reportedly dropped its plan to end a program that reserves a nursing home resident’s bed during brief hospitalizations or visits to family.

Advocates for the elderly and disabled worked feverishly to save the “bed hold’’ program, which was scheduled to end Nov. 1 in a cost-saving move.

Scott Plumb - a vice president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, which represents nursing homes - said yesterday that he received a call from a senior Medicaid staff member informing him that the program would not be scrapped.

Advertisement

David Matteodo - executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems, which represents hospitals with geriatric psychiatric units - said he received a similar call.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Paulette Song, a Patrick administration spokeswoman, declined to comment.

The $9 million program, in existence for more than a decade, pays nursing homes to reserve a resident’s bed for up to 10 days. The state and federal government split the cost.

Federal law requires nursing homes to readmit a resident after a temporary leave to the first available bed in a shared room, but it does not guarantee the same room or bed as before.

Because so many nursing home residents have dementia, the prospect of facing a new bed and room each time they return after a brief leave can be especially confusing, advocates said.

Advertisement

“They really have so little left in their lives, and this is their safety net,’’ said Wynn Gerhard, a managing attorney who specializes in elder care at Greater Boston Legal Services.

“Everybody is losing things today, but this is a threshold bedrock,’’ she said. “It’s their home.’’

Citing budget constraints, the Patrick administration announced earlier this year that the program would end Nov. 1.

Lawmakers cut the money for the program in the state budget approved in the summer. But after intense lobbying by advocates, lawmakers are finalizing a supplemental spending plan that contains the funding.

“I feel that we have done something really good here and the alternative would have been really bad,’’ said Senator Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat who championed the program because he remembered the trauma that engulfed his family when his father was repeatedly hospitalized while in a nursing home.

Advertisement

But some advocates for the elderly and disabled said they have mixed emotions about the decision to fund the bed hold program, illustrating the tough choices confronting state government in an era of tight budgets.

Al Norman - executive director of Mass Home Care, a network of nonprofits that provides home-based care - said some of the money the state will be paying nursing homes to hold open vacant beds should be used to help seniors and disabled residents get home services to avoid being institutionalized.

He said that instead of paying nursing homes in a “one-size-fits-all’’ program, the state should only be paying facilities that have held open beds that could have been given to other clients. State data show that some nursing homes have many vacancies and would be able to reserve a resident’s bed for brief time periods.

Kay Lazar can be reached at klazar@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.