Loss of 141 jobs at Farren Care Center a ‘terrible blow,’ says Montague Town Administrator Steven Ellis
MONTAGUE — Town Administrator Steven Ellis calls the loss of 141 jobs with the planned closure of Farren Care Center a “terrible blow.”
He hopes the loss won’t happen, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
Owner Trinity Health Of New England Senior Communities has applied to the state Department of Public Health for approval to close by year’s end the skilled nursing and rehabilitative services facility. Located in the village of Turners Falls, Farren specializes in the care of those with psychiatric as well as chronic medical conditions.
The proposal would transfer residents to Mount Saint Vincent, a skilled nursing and long-term care facility in Holyoke. Under a separate proposal submitted to the Department of Public Health, Connecticut-based iCare Health Network hopes to purchase Mount Saint Vincent and operate it as a facility for dual-diagnosed patients.
Trinity has announced planned layoffs of Farren employees, beginning mid-October. Layoffs also have been announced for Mount Saint Vincent employees, beginning in November.
“Montague and Franklin County as a whole is an extraordinary place to live and raise a family, but employment opportunities are limited,” said Ellis
“The relocation and/or loss of as many as 141 jobs is a terrible blow, particularly at this moment in time, and this loss will reverberate through our local economy,” he said. “It is ill-timed and a very reasonable point of concern for this component of our local workforce and everyone who relies on it, either directly or indirectly.”
He added that “relocation to a facility 45 minutes away will make it impractical for many staff to continue to work with this patient group, particularly those in lower wage earning brackets.”
“The present Farren location benefits from an immediately available and well-qualified staff who serve as the backbone for provision of services,” Ellis said.
“Patients may see their relationships with these staff and other local service providers, inclusive of appointed guardians lost or substantially diminished.”
He noted that Farren has had no cases of COVID-19, unlike many other nursing home facilities where the highly infectious respiratory condition spread in the absence of testing and personal protective equipment in early spring. Farren continues to limit visitors as a way to reduce risk of residents and staff being infected.
Regardless of the fate of Farren, Ellis said, the town of Montague “believes it would be in the best interest of patients and families not to relocate amid what is expected to be a season of re-emergence of COVID-19.”
“It simply is not in the best interest of patients, whose families cannot fully assess the quality or the Mount Saint Vincent facility or staff, or those of other providers, due to COVID-19 restrictions on entry to such institutions,” Ellis said.
If Trinity’s request is approved, Ellis said, it should be required to report on its efforts to successfully transition patients, in partnership with their families; provide severance pay for, and fund MassHire to help transition, workers unable or unwilling to travel to Holyoke; adequately fund a comprehensive site redevelopment study for the Farren property and implement such a study in partnership with Montague; develop a decommissioning plan for the facility; and secure and maintain the grounds after closing.