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A woman's place no more: Tuell Nursing Home to close in Melrose

Posted by Kathy McCabe  April 16, 2013 07:40 AM

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After decades of caring for women, Tuell Nursing Home in Melrose will close at the end of this week, owner Michael Cummings said.

The big, old Victorian home on Franklin Street lost $100,000 last year, due mostly to low reimbursement rates from state and federal health insurance programs, he said.

"Most nursing homes are losing up to $10 per day, for every day they have a Medicaid resident in the house," Cummings said."In 2011, the federal government cut nursing home rates about 30 percent. Those two events proved devastating."

Medicaid, the state's health insurance for low-income residents, provided 75 percent of revenues at the 28-bed nursing home, Cummings said.

Medicare, the joint federal and state health insurance program for low-income seniors and others, made up the balance, he said.

"If Medicare had made an increase, we might have been able to handle it," he said. "But without any increase from either, we absolutely couldn't handle it."

Cummings said is father purchased the nursing home, which only accepted women residents, in 1973. But Tuell existed for many years before that, he said.

"I believe a woman started it, sometime around 1940," he said.

The state Department of Public Health, which regulates nursing homes, requires a 60-day notification before a nursing home may close. The operator must submit a plan to relocate residents, and provide written notification of the closing to their families, according to state law.

"There are a whole set of procedures meant to protect the residents," Cummings said. "That's the good thing."

Cummings said he and his sister, Nancy Lordon, called the families of 26 residents who were living at the home when the closing was announced two weeks ago. Since then, all but six have moved to other homes. The rest should move by the end of this week, he said.

"Nobody ever wants to move out of their home," Cummings said. "But we don't have a choice."

Cummings owns three other nursing homes, located in Dighton, Fall River, and New Bedford. Those homes will stay open, he said.

"They're financially in better shape," he said. "The homes are close together. We can share labor costs across them, and other efficiencies, that we can't with Melrose."

Tuell had about 35 employees, including nurses, aides, dishwashers, and other staff. "They're very talented, skilled people," Cummings said. "Some have indicated they'll retire."

He credits the staff for the five-star ratings Tuell received this year in US News & World Report's annual ranking of the nation's top nursing homes. A nursing home comparison published on medicare.gov, also gave Tuell five-star ratings.

"You need people to provide good care," Cummings said. "The staff has done an unbelievable job there over the years. Some of them have been their since my father bought the place. That's what makes closing so painful."

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.

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