By Ken MacLeod

LOWELL (CBS) – Monday’s power outage at the Town and Country nursing home in Lowell was simply an unfortunate coincidence. It came on the same day state health officials declared it — “ill equipped to safely care for residents.”

“I hope they do something,” said Holly Howard. “I feel bad for those people in there.”

Her paralyzed Dad — Herman Berger — was in there, until family got him moved elsewhere after what they describe as a several month nightmare.

“They let him sit in the cafeteria for six or seven hours staring at the wall,” said Howard. “And he was telling me ‘I’m in so much pain I was yelling ‘Help! Help! Help!'”

But the state is now threatening to kick Town and Country out of the MassHealth program — along with Hermitage Healthcare in Worcester and Wareham Healthcare on the Cape — for miserable failures during the pandemic.

It cites things like poor infection control, critical staffing shortages, improper use of PPE, poor Covid-19 testing, and lack of cooperation — even refusing state offers of help in some instances.
“Not surprised — at all,” Howard said.

Termination as a MassHealth provider is often the state’s first step toward shutting down a nursing home. The owner of the facility can dispute the findings and demand a hearing.

Two of the nursing homes on Monday’s termination list did not return WBZ’s phone calls, while Town And Country promised a written statement for Tuesday.

Holly Howard says she tried several times to get their attention about her dad’s woeful care. “But they would be like ‘It’s not a good time,’” Howard said. “You’ll have to come back later.”

A recent audit found that 94 percent of the state’s nursing homes are complying with the Covid requirements.

Howard moved her father to one before the virus outbreak although he has since died — not from Covid-19.

Still, she’s happy he didn’t have to spend the pandemic here. “I can’t even imagine how awful that place would’ve been,” she said.

The state is offering to transfer MassHealth patients out of the three nursing homes on the termination list, noting each has “a historic record of poor performance.”

Ken MacLeod

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