By Matt Conti
The 140-bed North End Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center owned by Partners Healthcare is planning to close in about a year, according to people familiar with the situation. Residents and families are currently being notified of plans to sell the property. Operated by Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the nursing and therapy center is located at 70 Fulton Street, on the corner of Richmond, in Boston’s North End neighborhood.
News of the closure has many North End and Downtown Boston families outraged as they scramble to consider options for their loved ones, mostly seniors and elderly, who live and receive nursing care at the facility. Taking their emotions out on social media, several North End residents and family members are vowing to publicly oppose the move saying they “will not go down without a fight.”
“Maybe the city should stop worrying about the stupid bike paths and worry about basic living,” said an infuriated grandson of a resident at the North End nursing home. Partners did not immediately respond with a comment, but staff members have told families the company is very likely to move forward with the sale. Another relative wrote, “So where should our elderly go when living with family or own their own isn’t an option?”
Surging real estate prices in the North End and Downtown Boston could encourage a developer to build luxury apartments or condominiums on the property. At this time, there is no word of a buyer nor even that the sales process has begun.
Opened in 1983 in response to increasing community need for the elderly, the facility was originally owned and operated by the North End Community Health Center (now North End Waterfront Health). The center’s mission was to provide life cycle care for residents. The nursing home’s location in the neighborhood was selected so that longtime residents could stay in the North End while their families could frequently visit.
In 2000, Partners Healthcare came into the facility and took over full operations in 2001. At the same time, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital introduced therapy services, diversifying the operations beyond being a nursing home.
There are currently sixty beds dedicated to long-term nursing care. Over the years, Spaulding / Partners facility has gradually decreased the nursing home beds in favor of rehabilitation therapy, in an effort to boost profitability. Families have been told that the facility is still not meeting the owners economic needs and needs expensive renovations.
Local officials including Mayor Marty Walsh, City Councilor Sal LaMattina and State Representative Aaron Michlewitz are aware of the plans, although it is unclear if the City or State will have a say in the decision to sell the facility. Partners Healthcare is a private company and has recently announced the closing of another facility in West Roxbury.
State Representative Aaron Michlewitz has been speaking with impacted families. “The recent news of Partners’ decision is both disappointing and disturbing, especially considering we are just learning about this now without any previous community input.” Rep. Michlewitz added, “While I understand the financial constraints Partners faces, the thought of some of our most vulnerable seniors being uprooted from the North End by Partners at this time in their lives is shameful. Working with the neighborhood, I will do everything in my power to protect the quality of life for these seniors and fight to make sure that building remains a place for North End seniors for years to come.”
All patients are expected to be offered relocation to another facility, although those nursing homes are most likely in the outer neighborhoods such as Allston Brighton or beyond Boston’s city limits, in facilities located in Revere and Chelsea. The North End nursing facility is the only one of its kind in Downtown Boston.
Ironically, the Fulton Street parking lot located next door is under consideration for graduated assisted living and development by a non-profit arm of the Boston Archdiocese. The city owned lot has yet to be put up for bid, but preliminary plans have been circulated to abutters via informal meetings.
Many relatives of the sixty long-term residents receiving care at the North End nursing facility live or work in the area, making frequent visits convenient to their loved ones. The move of residents outside of downtown will make it that much more difficult for family and friends to stay connected. In response to the decision, family members and neighborhood residents said they believe the original promise that the facility would always serve North End seniors is being broken.