The Haverhill City Council gave approval last night to a plan that decreases the capacity of a North Avenue nursing home while increasing its ability to serve as an assisted living memory care unit.
Wingate Healthcare of Haverhill, 190 North Ave., asked the Council for a special permit to convert the existing property from a 127-bed nursing home to a facility focused strictly on memory care. The building will include 41 assisted-living memory care apartments and 26 beds dedicated to skilled memory care.
David Feldman of Wingate Healthcare told the Council the change is necessary since the long-term care portion of the home is only about half full while there is a waiting list of people needing assisted-living memory care.
“We feel strongly that the best use for this building is to create those private rooms to give those residents the targeted services as far as the programing that they need based on the acuity of their progressing disease,” he explained.
Feldman said the new construction will be primarily studio apartments with a few one-bedroom units and each will have their own bathroom with a shower and a small kitchenette area.
He also told councilors any employees that are let go because of the change will be offered positions at other company sites. Feldman said, like many other businesses, Wingate is actually having trouble filling the positions they have. That comment elicited this response from Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan.
“For the life of me, I don’t understand why healthcare workers are not getting more money to lure them back to work. They do important work and until we come to some way of providing healthcare workers with greater wages and maybe less profits for the corporations that run these facilities, you’re going to continue to have this problem,” he said.
Attorney Robert D. Harb, representing Wingate, reaffirmed to the Council that the proposal includes no exterior changes to the property. He also said the reduction in the number of patients and required nursing staff will decrease traffic in that area.
The Council approved the request by a vote of 9-0 with stipulations that all departments approve the projects and there will be no signs larger than the two now in place.