Haskell, Steinberg ask rehab center to reconsider closure

WESTPORT — Owners of the Westport Rehabilitation Complex have applied to the state seeking permission to cease operations, but two legislators are urging them to reconsider.

On Thursday, state Sen. Will Haskell, D-26, and state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-136, sent a letter strongly encouraging management to reconsider the closure and improve transparency between residents and the administration.

“Residents who call this facility home are exasperated by a lack of transparency, and they are frightened by the uncertainty of what lies ahead,” says the letter signed by the two legislators and Long-Term Care Ombudsman Mairead Painter.

The letter, addressed to R.B. Bridges, chief operating officer of Traditions Management, comes after several residents voiced their concerns at a public hearing at the facility on June 21.

A letter from the owners, dated May 22, notified occupants the 120-bed skilled nursing center planned to file an application to cease operations in late 2019. However, according to some residents, this letter was received after hours with no social workers present.

At the public hearing, several residents accused the owners of lack of communication and expressed concerns of leaving a facility they have called home for years.

“The Westport Rehabilitation Complex is their home, full stop,” the legislators’ letter reads. “This facility has provided quality long-term care for many individuals and they should receive adequate notice and assistance with alternative options if needed.”

Bridges has said revenue from the facility has been unable to cover costs, which was largely wages and benefits. The building is also in need of refurbishment, he said, but its current use does not produce sufficient revenue for major renovations.

This prompted owners to submit a pre-application to turn the property into a high-end hotel, which the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed on June 6.

“Despite the financial incentives that management may face, profit should never be put above people,” the legislators’ letter reads. “The health and safety of individuals, especially our most vulnerable neighbors, should be paramount in any future decisions.”

Describing themselves as advocates of consumer protection and supporters of high-quality, long-term care, the lawmakers encouraged the administration to ensure residents are properly considered, informed and respected.

Ben Atkins, chairman of Tradition Managements, said he has reached out to the legislators to talk about what the state would need to do to keep the facility open.