The future of The Nathaniel Witherell, the 202‐bed skilled nursing facility owned by the Town of Greenwich, is uncertain.
The Witherell was recently named a 2020-21 “Best Nursing Home” by US News & World Report.
On Oct 29, Greenwich issued an Request for Proposal for Management Services for the Nathaniel Witherell, in conjunction with the possible purchase or lease of facility.
According to the RFP, (proposals are due Dec 15), the chosen firm will provide the resources and expertise to take over the ownership and/or the management of the Witherell, and “bring an end to the need for the Town’s General Fund to provide financial support…”
While the Witherell is referred to as a community treasure and the facility boasts a low staff turnover rate, it has operated with a deficit at varying levels, leaving the Town to subsidize its operation.
“The Town’s objectives are to achieve a high-quality level of care, to serve the interests of both the residents of TNW and residents of Greenwich, to achieve financial stability and independence of TNW, to bring an end to the need for the Town’s General Fund to provide financial support to TNW, and to maximize the proceeds to the Town in a sale or lease transaction.”– RFP for Management Services for The Nathaniel Witherell
The RFP seeks approaches to the ownership and management of the Witherell, including:
1. Maintain current Town of Greenwich ownership and operation of The Witherell;
2. Lease or sell The Witherell to a newly established (non-profit) 501c3;
3. Lease or sell The Witherell to an existing 501c3;
4. Lease or sell The Witherell to a for-profit manager;
5. A fifth option would be for the Town of Greenwich to either reduce capacity or close the facility.
The RFP says proposals should address the Witherell’s many contracts including collective bargaining agreements.
With the exception of services such as rehabilitation therapy and food management, nearly all of the Witherell’s staff are employees of the Town of Greenwich.
Staff have representation by the GMEA (Greenwich Municipal Employees Association), which represents the Town’s administrative and clerical employees; Teamsters, and Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA).
Bill McCormick, the business manager for LIUNA Local 136, who represents the professional staff in the recreation, admissions, and social services departments, as well as all the registered nurses and managers, said his union first learned of the RFP was last week.
“This is a surprise to the union and we will most certainly be working to do whatever we can to prevent our members from any adverse actions that may result,” McCormick said on Monday. “We have a group of very dedicated nurses up there who provide an excellent level of care. Any disruption to that would be detrimental to the residents.”
The Witherell’s operations are overseen by a 9-member board who appoints the licensed Nursing Home Administrator and Medical Director.
Nursing homes were hit hard by Covid, both in the numbers of cases and deaths. They are typically operating below capacity as the pandemic drags on.
Like private nursing homes, The Witherell is operating below capacity, with 162 residents out of a 202-bed capacity.
At the Oct 19 Witherell board meeting, medical advisor Dr. Frank Walsh said that Greenwich Woods, a comparably sized private nursing home in Greenwich had an even lower “census” of just 74 residents out of about 200 beds.
At that board meeting “the census” and finances were discussed.
Dr. Walsh said 46 patients had been treated and recovered from Covid. “If we had lost those patients, it would have been $3 to $4 million lost over the last eight months,” he said. “It’s a big savings to have these people back upstairs.”
The RFP was not mentioned during the board meeting.
The RFP did come up during an Oct 20 RTM Finance committee meeting.
“We are very generous employer at this particular point in time, we know that we are, as I said earlier, we’re in the process of developing an RFP to hire a financial advisor to help us resolve this situation,” said Mike Basham.