BLACKSTONE – Town health officials Sunday abruptly closed the Blackstone Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and ordered the evacuation and relocation of the nursing home’s 25 residents after it was discovered the Butler Street facility had been without heat and hot water since Thursday afternoon.
Town officials were tipped off about conditions at the facility after the daughter of one resident went to visit her mother Sunday and saw her and other residents sitting around wearing coats and eating off paper plates. The facility had no heat or hot water due to a cracked boiler plate.
The 25 residents were brought to various nursing facilities owned and managed by the same company that owns the Blackstone facility — Norwood, Mass.— based Rehabilitation Associates, which operates nine small rehabilitation and skilled nursing centers, as well as an outpatient rehabilitation center. All of its facilities are located within eastern Massachusetts.
Steve Maxam, administrator for all of the nine rehabilitation and skilled nursing centers owned by Rehabilitation Associates, did not return phone calls to his office Monday.
Board of Health Chairman William T. Walsh said the Fire Department received a phone call around 1:30 p.m. Sunday from a person who had visited the nursing home that day and noticed there was no heat or hot water. Walsh said he called the nursing home and was told there had been no heat or hot water since Thursday afternoon and that efforts were being made to repair a damaged boiler.
After notifying Fire Chief Michael J. Sweeney, Police Chief Ross A. Atstupenas and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Walsh went to the facility to conduct an on-site evaluation.
“At that point we determined that the facility was in a cold condition,” said Walsh, adding temperatures inside the building were hovering around 50 degrees.
Morning temperatures over the weekend were unseasonably cold and some areas had frost both mornings.
Walsh said when it became evident by late Sunday afternoon that attempts to repair the boiler were not working, he made the decision as chairman of the Board of Health to close the facility and evacuate and relocate the residents. The Board of Health, which has local jurisdiction over public health matters, can close down a facility to protect the health of the public without a court order.
Town Administrator Daniel J. Keyes noted that while conditions at the nursing home weren’t “unbearable” during the day, there were fears it could get colder during the night, which was fast approaching. “Our initial concern was not just the heat, but also the fact there was no hot water for cooking or bathing,” he said.
Sweeney said most of the residents were ambulatory and could walk out of the facility on their own, but there were four residents confined to wheelchairs who needed extra assistance.
The town used its two senior vans to transport most of the residents. Seven residents were taken to Lydia Taft House in Uxbridge; six were taken to Timothy Daniels House in Holliston; and the others were taken to Victoria Haven in Norwood and Bridgewater SN & R in Bridgewater. An ambulance from Community Emergency Medical Services in Marlboro was called in by Rehabilitation Associates to transport those confined to wheelchairs.
“Everyone was in good condition. The problem wasn’t so much moving the residents, but finding enough locations to house them,” said Sweeney, adding the entire evacuation took two-and-a-half hours.
Walsh said the Blackstone Nursing & Rehabilitation Center will remain closed pending an inspection of the boiler repairs today.
“We’ll also do a walk-through with the fire chief and if everything checks out, we’ll consider reopening,” he said.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Robert J. Dubois said he was made aware of the situation on Sunday.
“I received a phone call from the town administrator to inform me of what happened and the precautions the town was taking to ensure the safety of the residents there,” Dubois said. “I have asked for a full report and we will be discussing this matter at our meeting Tuesday night.”
The Blackstone Nursing & Rehabilitation Center describes itself on its Web site as a “small family oriented skilled Nursing facility” with a “dedicated staff” trained in the most current techniques to provide “the best care possible to your family member.”
“It is the mission of Blackstone Nursing & Rehabilitation Center to provide quality, skilled nursing care in a home-like setting through a respectful and nurturing relationship with our residents,” the site says. “We aim to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents, to effectively manage their pain needs, and to promote best practice standards in our staff. It is our commitment to meet the clinical, social, psychological, and spiritual needs of all those individuals in our care.”