Clough Residents Still Seeking New Homes

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/27/2016 12:02:54 AM
Modified: 7/27/2016 12:02:59 AM

New London — Nearly six weeks after the trustees of New London Hospital announced a Sept. 30 end-date for care at the William P Clough Extended Care Center, the hospital’s 45-year-old nursing home, some residents have yet to find new places to live and receive care.

There now are 19 residents in Clough, including two who are expected to move to other facilities by the end of the week, said Karen Zurheide, the hospital’s vice president of community relations and development. The remaining residents “are all in discussions with other facilities,” she said.

“Everything is going smoothly,” she added. “People are accepting the situation.”

But Fay Bronstein, a New London resident whose 91-year-old husband with Parkinson’s disease has lived in Clough since 2005, said the decision to shutter Clough in a little over three months had set off “a rush to find nursing homes” among the residents and their families. There were 31 residents at Clough when the board voted on June 16.

Bronstein’s husband was accepted at the Genesis home in Lebanon and is scheduled to move in today.

But others have not been as fortunate. “There are waiting lists for some of these nursing homes,” Bronstein said. “There is a lot of anxiety and stress around that, as you would expect.”

The decision to close the nursing facility was prompted by a “drastic financial situation” in which Clough was taking more than $1 million a year away from the hospital’s bottom line and was expected to require a $6-$7 million investment to renovate old facilities, according to Zurheide.

Some family members of Clough residents questioned whether the public statements and gatherings of interested parties that preceded the board’s decision were all a charade. “I just think they made up their mind a long time ago,” said Holly Walker, the owner of Compass Travel in New London.

“Everybody knew it was going to shut down,” said George Sutherland, a resident of the Eastman community in Grantham whose wife is receiving hospice care at Clough. He said he viewed the board’s vote as “a ratification of a decision that had been made” weeks earlier.

But Zurheide said the board’s “agonizing decision” was not a foregone conclusion, although the large financial deficits being run up at the nursing home left little choice: “What else was the board going to do?”

When Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon announced a 2008 decision to close its nursing home, it provided 18 months of lead time during which the residents and their families could make plans to relocate.

Zurheide said that New London Hospital leaders heard presentations from leaders of Alice Peck Day and of Mount Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor, which closed its nursing home on a much shorter timetable, and ended up choosing a middle road.

Walker’s 84-year-old mother, who once worked as a registered nurse at New London Hospital, now has dementia and has lived in Clough since May 2015. The family has applied for a place in the Merrimack County Nursing Home in Boscawen but remains “in limbo” about whether a place will be available, Walker said.

Bronstein criticized the process through which governing boards of New London Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock, NLH’s corporate parent, arrived at the decision to close Clough.

“In the process of figuring out what they were going to do, they disregarded the families,” she said. “We were not included in any of these discussions.

Walker said she first learned of the possibility that Clough would close through “rumors.” She said she was angered when a hospital leader claimed at a June meeting with families of residents that the process had been “transparent with everybody,” Walker said. “That’s BS.”

Zurheide said hospital and nursing home officials “didn’t publish an article in our newsletter” about the possibility of Clough’s closing, but that hospital officials had talked about it in presentations to the area Rotary Club, at a local church and on a fundraising trip to Florida.

They also had reduced new admissions at the beginning of the year and talked about the possibility of repurposing the nursing home, which were signals to residents and families that the home might not be there in the future, she said.

The hospital administrators didn’t find the right medium for their message, according to Bronstein: “The lack of transparency has created a lot of conflict.”

Bronstein also would have liked to have had the nursing home’s owners and decision-makers allow current residents to remain at Clough. “They should not have given us a date to get out by,” she said. “They could very well have left a small wing open and kept the residents who are there so they could live their lives out there.”

But Zurheide said that the overhead and administrative costs of running a nursing home made it “not really feasible” to keep caring for a dwindling number of residents.

Sutherland said he has been assured that his wife, who is receiving hospice care — a form of palliative care for patients who have stopped receiving curative treatment and are expected to live for less than six months — would be allowed to move into the hospital when the nursing home closes.

That clearly pleased Sutherland, who described the care at Clough as “marvelous” and much better than his wife had received at another facility.

Zurheide declined to comment on the status of Sutherland’s wife or any other hospice patients, citing patient privacy concerns.

Several dozen Clough employees will have to find new jobs. In a note in the Clough Crier, a newsletter for residents and families, activities assistant Sue Janericco wrote of the coming closing: “As tough and emotional as it is, we have no choice in the matter and must somehow try and accept it gracefully and move on.”

Zurheide said a cooperative approach to preparing for the closing was going well: “We are working diligently with the families and the staff to make the best possible transition for everyone.”

Still, the closing left Bronstein with a bad taste. “It’s a corporate institutional decision that ignores the public interest,” she said. “It’s not something you’d expect to see in the Upper Valley.”

Rick Jurgens can be reached at or 603-727-3229.

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