BELLOWS FALLS -- The owner of a rehabilitation center closed by the state was granted a boundary line adjustment she needed before selling the building.
Margaret Perry operated McGirr Rehabilitation and Nursing Care Center, Inc. at 33 Atkinson St. until it was shut down following two deficiencies handed down from state surveyors and a failure to comply with Medicaid and Medicare regulations.
Perry also owns the child care center at 35 Atkinson St. and an apartment building at 26 South St. and she said those structures abut the former McGirr building. She said a boundary line adjustment 20 to 25 years ago moved the McGirr property line so much so that it became a part of the apartment building's backyard and did not end where it should have. In order to sell the McGirr building, Perry needed another boundary line adjustment to get back that land.
She said she hopes to sell the property in January and has some people interested.
Rockingham Health Officer/Zoning-Planning Administrator Ellen Howard said the Rockingham Planning Commission approved Perry's application because each lot of land would continue to meet Residential 7 Zoning District dimensional requirements. She said she believes it was approved at the planning commission's most recent meeting.
Commission Chairman Alan Lacombe said the application was given its obligatory public hearing, which he said was attended by an attorney representing Perry.
She and her business had been scheduled for U.S. District Court in Rutland to seek permission to admit patients, which it has been barred from doing since a year ago. However, Perry said she opted not to follow through when she realized that would not be a sufficient remedy for the business' predicament and no federal court decision could be delivered in a timely fashion.
Perry also wanted to deal with two "J tags" -- one of the lowest ratings possible -- the nursing home had received in two different categories. A preliminary hearing, a legal proceeding in which a judge must decide if any crime has been committed, was held on Thursday, April 12. The defendants named by McGirr included Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Douglas Racine, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services.
According to documents, Perry claimed her constitutionally protected right to due process was violated but the facility closed April 28.
She maintains that the whole problem started after McGirr took in a 33-year-old woman with a "long and complex physical and psychological history."
The patient eventually made some serious allegations against the facility. Nursing homes are required to report the allegations to the Division of Licensing and Protection, a part of the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, which in turn is within the Agency of Human Services.
In a telephone interview several months ago, Perry said facilities have to do their own investigation while the state conducts an inspection, referred to as a survey, any time an allegation is made. Surveys, Perry said, can occur on weekends, holidays and at night so they are not expected.
She said the state wasn't satisfied with McGirr's investigation and sent a standard list of deficiencies 10 days after conducting its own. The facility then had 10 days to send back a plan of correction, stating what it would do to fix the problems.
Documents obtained by the Reformer state all deficiencies found are given a letter classifying their severity -- ratings A, B and C mean the deficiencies are still in substantial compliance while D, E or F ratings pose no actual harm, with potential for more than minimal harm to residents. Ratings of G, H or I constitute harm that does not rise to the level of immediate jeopardy to a resident's health or safety -- which is what J, K and L ratings are used for. Perry said weeks ago that everything from food to activities to cleanliness are evaluated in surveys.
Though the state eventually concluded that the allegations were unfounded, it had problems with McGirr's investigation, its conclusion and what the actions the facility took. Then, during a February follow-up survey, two J tags were discovered. The surveyors, according to court documents, then came back in March to reveal that though the J tags were fixed perfectly and all previous violations had been cured, they discovered new J tags that constituted immediate jeopardy.
At the time of its closure, McGirr was a 9,000-square-foot facility that employed 32 people.
Perry said she has since become the director of the child care center next door and rents out three apartments to eight people. She said it had been in her family since 1966.
"I miss McGirr," she said. "I miss the people."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.