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Owner of Westport nursing home, after union battle, files for bankruptcy

Associated Press
Updated 10:57 am, Monday, February 25, 2013
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The company that owns a Westport nursing home and four others in the state has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the parent company's request to delay a court order to reinstate 600 striking workers.

HealthBridge Management LLC -- the owner of Westport Health Care on Post Road West -- announced Monday that it filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Newark, N.J., on Sunday.

The proceedings won't affect patient care in the nursing homes according to management.

The Parsippany, N.J., company cited "unsustainable" union pension and medical benefit costs for workers with District 1199 of the New England Health Care Employees Union.

A union spokeswoman didn't immediately return messages Monday.

The other Health Bridge nursing homes in the state are: Long Ridge of Stamford, Newington Health Care Center, West River Health Care Center in Milford and Danbury Health Care Center.

Workers are set to return to their jobs Sunday.

In early July, about 600 union employees of the five nursing homes walked off the job in response to HealthBridge instituting a "last, best and final" contract after more than a year of unsuccessful negotiations with the union. The union representing the workers, New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, argued that the contract was unfair and was illegally implemented.

Late last year, U.S. District Court Judge Robert N. Chatigny granted an injunction to restore the caregivers to their prior positions and halt HealthBridge's implementation of the contract. However, no date was set for their return and HealthBridge made several attempts to appeal the decision.

The company's requests for an emergency stay were first denied by Chatigny, then by a three-judge panel convened by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, and finally by the U.S. Supreme Court.