New Sweet Brook leader's goal: Fix deficiencies to allow for new Medicare patients

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WILLIAMSTOWN — There's a new leader at the helm at Sweet Brook Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, and his first order of business will be to remedy deficiencies that, for now, will block any new Medicare patients.

The facility has been given six months to correct issues that could lead to the termination of its Medicare provider agreement, according to the state Department of Public Health.

David Carboneau, who took over as Sweet Brook's director at the beginning of this week, said another inspection will take place to determine if those problems have been resolved.

"We have to submit a plan of correction based on what they found," Carboneau said. "They will come back to see if we correct these issues."

Under the current circumstances, Carboneau said Sweet Brook is unable to admit any additional Medicare patients.

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"We have to ask the Department of Public Health more or less on a case-by-case basis if we can admit somebody before we can admit as we did previously," he said.

The deficiencies that led Sweet Brook to be placed in "immediate jeopardy" were unavailable Friday.

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"I wasn't here as the administrator until this past Monday, so I don't know the whole history," Carboneau said. "They had a good inspection a year ago. Around the first of the year, everything was fine."

On Aug. 30, the Department of Public Health had recommended that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services declare "immediate jeopardy" at Sweet Brook.

Beginning Sept. 7, the agency overseeing Medicare and Medicaid imposed sanctions on Sweet Brook. Under that agency's enforcement policy, Sweet Brook was required to respond and fix some conditions at the facility by Sept. 30 in order to avoid the termination of its Medicare provider agreement.

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On Sept. 27, the agency announced that it would terminate Sweet Brook's Medicare provider agreement Sept. 30 because the facility had failed to meet Medicare's basic health and safety requirements, according to the termination notice. But a follow-up visit by DPH on Sept. 29 confirmed that Sweet Brook had "removed jeopardy" from its facility.

"Although the facility has removed jeopardy, additional deficiencies that are not on the jeopardy level still exist," DPH said in a statement. "The facility must correct these deficiencies in order to be found in substantial compliance with all applicable regulations. For non-jeopardy deficiencies, the facility must correct them within six months to avoid termination of the provider status with [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services]."

According to the termination notice, the agency that governs Medicare and Medicaid requires facilities to meet certain health and safety standards to be certified as a Medicare providers. The Boston regional office had found Sweet Brook to be out of compliance with basic health and safety requirements, the termination notice stated.

Sweet Brook is a skilled nursing facility with 184 beds; it offers long-term care and short-term rehab.

Reach Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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