Staffing costs behind NEK nursing home closure; Vt. officials say others may follow

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 6:16 PM EST
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NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) - One of only four nursing homes in the Northeast Kingdom will shut down later in March. The Newport Healthcare Center says it’s due to financial troubles, and state officials say other facility closures could follow.

Officials confirmed Wednesday that the Newport Healthcare Center will be closed for good in just 60 days, displacing 30 residents.

“It was a very difficult decision for me and the owners, but it seemed like the best thing to do so that we gave quality care up until we were done, and that’s what we’re doing,” said the center’s Bruce Weddington. He says the closure is largely due to staffing shortages and financial trouble.”We lost about a quarter of our nursing staff in the first month of COVID. Now, I can’t find people that could mop a floor much less that could run a department. The people we tend to get now that are brand new -- train, don’t have any hands on. So, you got to train for that. And the staffing with traveling contracted nursing is very, very expensive.”

State officials say this is the first nursing home closure in the post-pandemic but that there could be more. “It’s certainly something that is a concern really across all parts of our long-term care system of care,” said Monica White, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living.

Although the situation is troubling, White says as of right now, Vermont has adequate nursing capacity. “Presently, there are 37 licensed skilled nursing facilities in Vermont and that would include Newport Health Care Center. And for those 37 facilities, there’s just under 3,000 licensed beds in skilled nursing facilities across the state,” she said, adding that the state is working on plans to give them more support. “We have been intently focused working on a number of things from rate adjustments to providing emergency financial relief, as well as longer-term initiatives such as workforce recruitment and retention.”

Weddington says the one silver lining to the closure is that it might ease the strain on the other three nursing homes in the NEK. “I see advantages for the other places because my staff will be available and that can only help them. For quite a while it’s been, we’ve been stealing from each other and it didn’t help the staffing,” he said.

For now, the state and center are working to find homes for those 30 displaced residents.

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Newport nursing home closure to displace 30 residents