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Española nursing home closing amid chain’s bankruptcy

SANTA FE – The Española Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is closing its doors.

Residents, family members and staff were informed of the closure during a meeting with corporate officials Thursday, providing them with a 60-day notice, according to Leticia Montez, an Albuquerque resident whose parents have lived in the facility since January.

According to an announcement posted on the facility’s Facebook page, the center will close Dec. 31. As of Thursday, the facility stopped accepting new long-term care admissions. Española Valley Nursing and Rehab Center has about 60 patients.

“The decision to close was not made lightly, but was truly brought on by circumstances beyond our control,” the center’s statement reads. “We have made every attempt to find an alternate operator but unfortunately, we were unable to do so. The New Mexico Department of Health has approved the closure and is working with Española Valley on relocation plans for the remaining residents who still reside in the building. ”

The facility’s operator, embattled Texas-based Preferred Care Inc., filed for bankruptcy last year. Last week, another provider announced it was buying Preferred Care’s Casa Rael nursing home in Santa Fe and eight other Preferred Care facilities.

Since 2014, the state Attorney General’s Office has been pursuing a lawsuit against Preferred Care, alleging its residents are not getting the care they need and that the state and federal governments have been improperly billed.

A letter Montez received from the center states that facility staff will be reaching out to each resident’s primary contact to have them work with discharge managers. It says the facility hopes to have everyone moved by the holiday season. The website announcement also says the company will help its staff with finding other employment opportunities.

In an FAQ section of the letter, under the question “What will happen if we cannot find a facility or accommodation?” the response is, “Because Espanola Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation is closing, all patients must discharge.”

“We are committed (according to the state and federal guidelines) to assist you to the best of our ability in finding a new home. Please utilize all resources possible to assist you with options. Do not delay in making your choices to ensure placement is made as soon as possible.”

“Everybody is kind of shell-shocked,” said Montez, whose mother is a resident and her dad is on hospice care at the facility. She said she’s heard from staff that they’d like to see people moving out within the next two weeks.

Montez said that there will likely be more care options for her parents near her home in Albuquerque. But she expressed concerns for residents who may not have as much family support and about how much availability or Medicaid-eligible options there are at nearby facilities.

She worries there will be a race to find new placement. “It’s almost like every man for themselves now,” she said.

Paul Rhein, a spokesperson from the state’s Aging and Longterm Services Department, said in a statement that it will work with other state agencies “to ensure continuity of care and to monitor the safe transfer of residents to other facilities.”

“The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program will have a consistent presence at the facility during transition to advocate for the residents’ choices and rights. Residents can contact them at 866-451-2901 to request their support services.”

Though Montez feels she may be better off than others because she lives in a large city, she still is stressed about the transition. She said it’s overwhelming for her mother to deal with both her husband being in hospice care and now the news that she will need to move.

“I’m feeling frustrated, I’m scared, I’m really angry because this is how we’re taking care of our elders,” Montez said.

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