WESTPORT — In a major shift from earlier closure plans, the Westport Rehabilitation Complex will now stay open.

Barbara Recker, whose mother has been at the facility for 14 years, said the news came during a community meeting on Tuesday afternoon. According to Recker, the State Ombudsman Mairead Painter and facility management also attended the meeting.

“Everybody was thrilled and we were shocked,” she recalled.

The 120-bed skilled nursing center had notified its occupants in late May of plans to file an application to cease operations by late 2019. Around the same time, the building’s owners filed a pre-application with the Planning and Zoning Commission to turn the property into a high-end hotel.

At a public hearing on June 21, several residents said they were appalled at the decision to close, and expressed concerns about having to leave the place they called home for years.

News the facility would now remain open is a positive outcome for residents, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, said.

“I think it’s good for the employees too,” he added. “They have a relationship with the people in the facility.”

One of the unfortunate downsides, however, is that a number of residents have left and it could be difficult for them to move back, he said. As chair of the state legislature’s public health committee, Steinberg assured he would continue to research the ongoing sustainability of nursing homes.

“For many people, whether you’re aging or become disabled, you’re going to need a skilled nursing home,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we have not simply dodged a bullet here in Westport, but we have made progress.”

While she has not received anything in writing, Painter said she has been told by Traditions Senior Management that it plans to remain open. She has also reached out to management to ensure there is better communication moving forward.

“I’ve spoken with administration and asked that they give (residents) a letter notifying they’ve changed their minds that they’re not going to close,” Painter said. “I also want it sent to family members because there’s people who were unable to attend the meeting.”

Painter, who has held monthly meetings with the residents since the public hearing, said closures of skilled nursing facilities is a statewide concern.

“One of the issues in Connecticut is we’ve known for several years we have an excess of long-term care beds in our system,” she said, adding this has caused facilities to compete for residents.

A change in culture has also contributed to many facilities facing financial hurdles. Painter said now more than ever people are choosing to live or do rehab at home instead of choosing a skilled nursing facility. This has left local facilities to compete with larger rehab centers.

To avoid facility closures, Painter said she would prefer to see larger facilities take some beds offline.

“I would prefer not to see nursing homes close because then it would leave gaps in the area,” she said. “I would prefer to see more small nursing homes throughout the state so people can stay in their community of origin.”

Facility management could not be reached for comment.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com