N. End residents speak out against proposed nursing home sale
North End residents on Tuesday criticized a proposal from Spaulding Rehabilitation Network to relocate a neighborhood nursing home to Brighton and sell the building, insisting the plan will harm seniors who have lived in the close-knit community their entire lives.
The residents, many of whom held signs that said “Save Our North End Nursing Home,” spoke during a City Council hearing against the proposed sale of the Fulton Street property that currently houses the 140-bed Spaulding Nursing and Therapy Center.
The Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, which runs the facility, plans to close that property and a nursing home in West Roxbury and transfer operations to a Brighton location. Spaulding is owned by Partners HealthCare, the state’s largest health system.
Advocates for the North End nursing home, which opened in the early 1980s, said vulnerable seniors and their families have come to depend on its services, which have helped many lifetime residents remain in their community.
“The services that are provided there are going to be needed for a long time to come,” said neighborhood resident Philip Frattaroli, 34, whose grandfather is a resident of the nursing home. “Keep this valuable part of our neighborhood intact.”
Francine Gannon, 70, who advocated during the 1970s for the construction of the nursing home, said the proposed closure of the site has drawn “outrage throughout the North End community.”
She said more than 2,000 people have signed petitions in support of maintaining the facility, and that the community will oppose “any proposal” by a company to purchase the property with the intent to convert it into something other than a nursing home.
The nursing home sits on land once controlled by the Boston Redevelopment Authority under urban renewal, so any change of its use would require approval by the BRA board.
Brian P. Golden, director of the BRA, said during the council meeting on Tuesday that the agency would only approve a different use for the property if Spaulding could demonstrate “significant community support” for a change.
“We have certainly not heard support,” Golden said, adding that the BRA believes the restriction of the Fulton Street property for use as a nursing home “will not be modified.”
Councilors also heard from David E. Storto, president of the Spaulding rehab network, who said the company is “well aware” of the restrictions on the property and has “not requested a variance or change” to the terms.
In fact, he said, Spaulding has only spoken with other nursing home and senior care providers about a possible purchase of the property.
He said the company plans to file its formal application to close the North End and West Roxbury facilities with the state Department of Public Health in the fall, and that the Brighton location will not be ready for at least a year.
The company has told families of current residents of the North End home that their loved ones will be free to move to Brighton or go elsewhere, he said.
Storto also reiterated Spaulding’s position that the North End facility is in disrepair and that the move will allow the company to house seniors and treat patients in a more modern space.
“We wanted to continue [with the move] to be able to provide care to the patient population we are serving,” Storto said.
He also said most new patients at the North End home come from outside the neighborhood, though some at the meeting claimed the company has blocked admission to locals in recent years.
Spaulding’s plans will be an early test of new regulations for nursing home closures. The rules that went into effect Jan. 1 require nursing home operators to notify the public before selling or closing a facility, and hearings are mandated for closings.
Councilors and other elected officials vowed on Tuesday night to push to keep the North End property open as a nursing home for neighborhood residents.
“We will fight,” said Councilor Sal LaMattina.
State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, a North End Democrat, echoed that pledge.
The issue, he said, “has rallied the neighborhood. ... This [nursing home] was built for the community, and it should remain for the community. “