Apr. 8—Allied Services is closing its assisted living facility in downtown Wilkes-Barre and giving 18 elderly residents about a month to find a new place to live.
The Citizens' Voice obtained a copy of a letter from James Cooney, Allied Services vice president of Skilled Nursing Facility Operations, to residents and family members dated April 2 and indicating it was a follow-up to a March 31 phone call from the administration department related to the closure of the Center City Senior Community residence at 80 E. Northampton St. effective May 31.
The letter indicated that the estimated date of discharge for the resident to whose family it was sent would be May 3 and that administration and staff would be "available to assist you with all aspects of the transfer and relocation process."
The letter went on to say the decision to close was "not easily arrived upon" and predicated on "extensive analysis of trends in both local and statewide health care delivery systems, specifically as a result of the pandemic-rooted challenges facing healthcare systems and residents alike."
Jim Brogna, vice president of Strategic Partnership Development for Allied, confirmed in an email that the company submitted an official notification to the state Department of Human Services that officials planned to de-license personal care residency at the facility.
Brogna said all residents, staff and families have been notified in accordance with state regulations, and staff are "working closely with each of the 18 residents on placement at other appropriate local personal care facilities."
"Unfortunately, the facility, which Allied Services acquired from the Diocese of Scranton only 18 months ago, requires significant capital reinvestments on the personal care floor(s), which would make affordable personal care living cost-prohibitive," Brogna said.
The Northampton Street facility, known as St. Luke's Villa when under diocese ownership, includes the 48-unit personal care facility as well as a 50-bed skilled nursing unit and 31 independent-living apartments. The villa was previously known as the Heritage House, founded in 1893 as a place for homeless women, prior to the diocese purchasing it in 2011.
Allied will continue to operate the skilled nursing unit and apartments as well as the skilled nursing facility at the Meade Street Senior Community campus in downtown Wilkes-Barre. The company currently has no plans for the assisted-living portion of the Northampton Street property, Brogna said.
Brogna said there are no staff layoffs associated with the closure. Personal care staff will all have opportunity to work at one of Allied Services' other locations.
Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, a national advocacy group based in Austin, Texas, said residents "should be getting assistance from state officials and an ombudsman" and great care should be taken "to ensure safety protocols are in place to prevent potential injury and transfer trauma, residents' medications and personal belongings are accounted for and refunds are paid."
"It's a real shame. You're being evicted, told to get out in 30 days. Especially in a COVID environment, it's going to be tough," Lee said, adding that residents or their loved ones can call his organization as well as the state Department of Human Services for assistance if needed.
Lee said it's "unsurprising" to see some assisted living facilities close because they didn't receive nearly as much federal and state aid during the pandemic as nursing homes, which are federally regulated by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Assisted living facilities and personal care homes are under state regulation only.
"The long-term care industry in Pennsylvania is in the midst of a turbulent and volatile time due to skyrocketing costs over the last 12 months for things like testing, personal protective equipment, staffing and wages, infection control, reopening and liability insurance premiums," said Zach Shamberg, president of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, a trade group for the nursing home industry.
While he hasn't heard of many facility closures, Shamberg said, he's seen increased changes in ownership, sales and reorganizations among nursing homes, and the trend is extending to assisted living and personal care homes.
"Unfortunately, unless we deliver the support these providers need, closures will be the next step," Shamberg said. "Pennsylvania is the third-oldest state in the country. We can't afford to have a volatile long-term care marketplace in Pennsylvania because we've got to ensure continued care for our aging population."
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