AYER — The Nashoba Associated Boards of Health are “saddened” to announce the closing of their visiting nurse and hospice services effective immediately.
The agency “has provided personalized, expert skilled nursing and end-of-life care in people’s homes for over sixty years,” said an email.
The Nashoba Associated Boards of Health (NABH) is a regional health department with member towns of Ashburnham, Ashby, Ayer, Berlin, Bolton, Boxborough, Devens, Dunstable, Groton, Harvard, Lancaster, Littleton, Lunenburg, Pepperell, Shirley, Stow, and Townsend.
In addition to NABH’s 17 member towns, the home health and hospice services also served surrounding towns upon request in the Worcester County and Middlesex County areas. Additional municipalities included Acton, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Clinton, Concord, Hudson, Fitchburg, Leominster, Maynard, Sterling, Tyngsboro, and Westford.
Both visiting nurses and hospice have been separate, fee-based services of a governmental non-profit Medicare-certified agency, under the umbrella of the NABH.
Unfortunately, that made them vulnerable to the “headwinds” of the healthcare industry, which a press release called a “challenging business” that made the services no longer viable.
NABH blamed the “current shortage of nursing staff” for making it “extremely difficult to hire and retain registered nurses” and the lack of “adequate staffing” makes it impossible to accept new patients.
They also said that the size — or what they call the “patient census” — “makes it difficult to be financially viable as our costs to provide services are higher, in most cases, than the payment we receive for those services.”
Despite a “lean operation” by management, not enough staff and the reduced number of patients as a consequence, “has resulted in many months of financial losses.”
At their regularly scheduled meeting on June 29, the NABH voted to shutter the home health and hospice services the following day, June 30.
The public health nursing service and collaboration with the elected boards of health in member towns will not be impacted by the closure. The environmental health division enforcing local and state sanitary and health laws, regulations, and codes will also continue.
NABH has served as the health agent and provided public health nursing services for their member communities since 1931. Home health and the visiting nurse association (VNA) began in 1966 and, in 1995, hospice services were added.
Services available from the home health and hospice included skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social work, dieticians, home care aides, spiritual counseling, and bereavement counseling.
“We know our community is feeling this loss as much as we are. Since the closure was announced, residents have been coming forward and sharing stories on the positive impact [the agency] has had on them and generations of loved ones over these many years of service,” said an email from the public health team.
They added, “We appreciate all of the support and fond memories our community has shared with us throughout this process. We are fortunate to serve a region of engaged, thoughtful, and caring residents.”
The visiting nurse and hospice services will continue for 30 to 90 days until all current patients are either discharged or transferred to another agency in the area.
The agency said patients will be transferred to other agencies “with a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) quality rating that is the same or higher” than theirs before the cessation of the visiting nurse and hospice services.