No love for proposed rehab center

Health care admins sharply critical of plans, say no need for new facility

The Salem News | By Paul Leighton
November 1, 2016

BEVERLY — A proposal to build a short-term rehabilitation facility on Sohier Road ran into overwhelming opposition during a public hearing on Tuesday at Beverly High School.

Speakers representing hospitals, nursing facilities, nonprofit groups and patients told state regulators that the new business is not only unnecessary, but could drive existing nursing facilities out of business and disrupt patients.

“We don’t need another facility. The existing ones are doing fine,” said Mary Margaret Moore, executive director of the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann. “Please tell these people, ‘Thank you, not here, not today.'”

A newly formed company called OPMABev LLC has proposed building a 90-bed rehabilitation center for short-term stays for people recovering from conditions such as strokes, heart attacks and major joint replacements. The $23 million facility would be built at the site of the Roller Palace and Soccer Etc., which would be demolished.

Six ’10 taxpayer’ groups have formed in opposition to the project, which must be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The department hosted the public hearing as part of its process of determining whether the facility is needed. About 60 people attended.

Other than a representative of the company proposing the project, all 15 people who spoke at the hearing were against it. Richard Bane of BaneCare, which owns 13 skilled nursing facilities in Massachusetts and three on the North Shore, said nearly 10 percent of the area’s 2,000 skilled nursing beds are empty on a given day.

“There’s no need,” he said. “In fact, there is a glut.”

Speakers in particular criticized OMPABev’s intention to exclude patients on Medicaid, the government insurance program for low-income people.

Dr. Greg Bazylewicz, president of the Lahey Clinical Performance Accountable Care Organization, said the facility would “siphon” off higher-paying Medicare and private insurance patients from other facilities that do care for Medicaid patients.

Bane called the plan “insensitive” and said it “caters only to the rich.”

“This is very concerning and may result in facility closures,” Bazylewicz said.

Alexandra Martell, the supervisor of social work at Beverly Hospital, said the hospital has no problem finding rehabilitation beds for patients, particularly those on Medicare or private insurance.

“Those types of patients are the easiest to place,” she said. “This facility is looking to take the most desirable, best reimbursed, easiest-to-place patients.”

Speakers also criticized OMPABev’s contention that the facility is needed because existing facilities are providing “below average care.” They pointed out that two new facilities, the Brudnick Center in Peabody and Hathorne Hill in Danvers, have opened in recent years, and several existing facilities have undergone expensive upgrades.

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