- Associated Press - Friday, April 10, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A judge on Tuesday signed off on a receivership for the financially troubled Bannister House nursing home, moving forward on a plan to shut down the century-old nonprofit facility.

Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein appointed attorney Richard Land to act as receiver for the home in Providence, which has debts totaling more than $2 million, Land told The Associated Press. Officials for Bannister House filed a petition this week requesting a temporary receiver after the board voted to close the facility because of its financial troubles.

“Based upon its population and the nature of its revenue, it’s very difficult to catch up and repay that kind of debt,” Land said.

Nevertheless, Land said the plan to close Bannister is on hold while he and other officials explore alternatives and determine if shutting down - and relocating the facility’s 80 residents - is feasible.

Land, who has facilitated nursing home closures before, said he is confident they will find a place to move the residents, though he said moving them to a single facility is unlikely.

Jane Hayward, president of Bannister’s board of directors, did not return messages seeking comment, and attorneys for Bannister declined to comment.

This is not the first time Bannister has faced financial uncertainty - a receiver was appointed in 2000 because of “serious cash flow problems,” according to the petition filed in court. The facility continued to struggle financially, with accounts payable totaling $900,000 even after the receivership ended in 2012.

The nursing home now has 280 creditors, according to the petition, including an outstanding obligation to Providence Economic Development Partnership, Inc., for nearly $600,000.

The board voted in March to close the facility after its request for financial assistance was denied by the state, according to the petition, including a request for “an increased fixed reimbursement rate for Medicaid and Rhody Health Option residents.”

But the reimbursement rates are established by law and are not something the state can freely change, said James Nyberg, director for LeadingAge RI, the trade organization to which Bannister House belongs.

“It’s a very unique request,” Nyberg said.

While many nursing homes are struggling financially, Bannister House’s closure is not indicative of a larger trend, Nyberg said.

Meanwhile, the union representing the facility’s 130 employees said it is trying to keep the nursing home open.

A hearing to review the receivership is scheduled for May 1.

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