Akron-area nursing home on nation's worst list to voluntarily close

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Fairlawn Rehab & Nursing Home, which is on a federal list of the nation’s worst nursing homes, is voluntarily closing.

Owners of the nursing home in Copley, west of Akron. notified the Ohio Department of Health on Monday that it is closing the facility on Sept. 10. The state requires a 90-day notice of closure.

The owner, Hillstone Healthcare, had notified the state last week that it intended to sell the facility to another company next month. Now the latest filing indicates Fairlawn Rehab instead will close.

Fairlawn is one of 39 nursing homes across Ohio operated by Hillstone and its sister company Boulder, both of which are headquartered in Lewis Center.

One of their central Ohio facilities, Uptown Westerville at 140 Old County Line Road, will close by June 20 after the federal government stopped making payments to it, citing a track record of poor care. As of Tuesday morning, two residents are still left at the nursing home. More than 100 residents have been relocated.

Hillstone and Boulder also operate Isabelle Ridgway Post Acute Care Campus on the Near East Side and Columbus Colony Elder Care in Westerville.

Fairlawn Rehab — on Ridgewood Road at Cleveland-Massillon Road in Copley — also is one of five Ohio nursing homes on a list of 88 federal “Special Focus Facilities” nationwide with the most serious history of quality of care issues.

State inspectors found problems big enough to threaten residents’ health — such as untreated bedsores and unchecked or untreated diabetes — to slights and poor management that hurt resident dignity. The problems affected dozens of residents.

In an email Tuesday afternoon, Paul Bergsten, who co-owns Hillstone and sister company Boulder Healthcare, said: “We had planned to move the operations to another operator. This did however fall through and the building’s landlord has decided to sell the building and the beds. This is not our option but we are complying with the landlord.

“We have operated the home for a year and a half and we do believe the care has improved in the last year at Fairlawn.”

Sam McCoy, senior vice president of elder rights for Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging & Disabilities, said his organization has been fielding lots of complaints about Fairlawn Rehab for the past six to eight months.

McCoy said he was “disappointed the Hillstone and Boulder organization was not willing to invest the time and effort and energy to bring their facility up to standards.”

“I say that because I know they are the owners and operators of many other facilities in the state,” he added. “It’s frustrating to me that for all the reasons to get into the business, they’re not willing to invest in the improvement of care.”

McCoy last week said he was not in favor of nursing homes closing and would rather have the staff work to fix the problem for all residents.

Records show Hillstone bought Fairlawn Rehab in November 2017. Regular inspections are typically done once a year or any time a complaint is filed, but this facility has faced 26 inspections by state health inspectors since its new owners took over.

Federal regulators fined the Fairlawn Rehab nursing home $142,973 during a six-month period in 2018 for not improving or correcting violations identified by state health inspectors.

A team of state and local agency representatives has already been assembled to help Fairlawn Rehab’s approximately 64 residents look for new care, either in their private homes or at another facility, said McCoy.

Dispatch reporter Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this story.

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