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GREAT BARRINGTON — A former nursing home in town is now serving as one of the state's eight regional COVID-19 recovery centers for those who are recovering from illness caused by the virus.

Operation of the facility in the former Great Barrington Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Maple Ave./Route 23 will be paid for by the state Department of Public Health through MassHealth, and run by Bear Mountain Health Care of Thomaston, Conn. It is now open with 10 beds, said Christopher Duncan, the company's director of operations.

As of Friday, it was preparing for its first patient, he said. The company, which also owns nearby Timberlyn Heights Rehabilitation and Care Center, plans to increase soon to another 10 beds. It has capacity for a total of 50.

Bear Mountain purchased the former nursing home on Maple Avenue and Route 23 in September 2017. It is one of the company's 18 facilities across Massachusetts.

Financial losses prompted a gradual shutdown that ended in mid-March. And as the company worked through the shuttering with the DPH, the coronavirus pandemic struck. The agency then asked the company to open the building for recovering COVID-19 patients in an effort to reserve hospital beds open for more acutely suffering patients who need ventilators or other high-tech care.

"The types of people that we'll be admitting here are traditional nursing home patients that are COVID-positive," Duncan said, noting that these would typically be the elderly. Duncan said that patients can be released home as soon as they no longer need this level of care.

Duncan said Timberlyn Heights officials also will oversee the recovery center, which he said is well-outfitted with masks and other protective equipment.

He said the company is trying to help.

"This is not a for-profit endeavor for us," he said. "This is to do the right thing for other humans and help save lives for the onset of the surge."

But he said it isn't cheap to run. And that's why the state is footing the bill.

"You can imagine that there is a lot of extraordinary expense that goes into the treatment of recovering COVID patients,"he said. "There's the personal protective equipment and the oxygen, and the reopening of the building."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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