Judge blocks regulation limiting room bed counts

A nursing home room
Credit: robinimages/Getty Images Plus

Massachusetts will not be allowed to implement a regulation that requires long-term care facilities to discharge current residents in rooms with three or four beds, a Superior Court judge ruled.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Salinger handed down the opinion Thursday and temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the new regulation after nine Massachusetts long-term care facilities filed a lawsuit last week challenging the rule.

“This avoids the trauma of people being involuntarily discharged, while the dispute about the underlying regulation is being considered by the court,” said attorney Howard Sollins, who’s representing the providers. The provider group suing the state is going by the Access to Care Coalition of Massachusetts.

The regulation was originally announced by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (D) in September 2020 in an effort to improve infection controls in nursing homes. It required long-term care facilities to eliminate three- and four-bed rooms.

The rule became effective May 1 and the state issued a notice giving long-term care facilities 45 days to discharge current residents in rooms with three or four beds.

The coalition noted that the facilities had applied for waivers — with some pending for months — and were denied by the state shortly before the regulation went into effect. The group noted that the denials came, despite federal regulations that mandate facilities to give 30 days notice before transferring or discharging residents.

Providers also argued that the rule would force providers to layoff more than 100 workers and lose more than $16 million in revenue.

“The commonwealth is potentially endangering the lives of the most vulnerable elderly in the state by implementing a bed reduction regulation for long term care facilities without any plan or process in place for avoiding the abrupt eviction of hundreds of patients,” Judy Rakowsky, a spokeswoman for the Access to Care Coalition of Massachusetts, told local media.

The next hearing is set for June 1.

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