The Berkshire Eagle  reports over the next month, lawyers for a Williamstown nursing home and the Department of Public Health will exchange documents and other information related to the agency's move to close the facility.

The lawyers, James M. Strong and Heidi Hoefler from the Department of Public Health, and Anthony Cichello for Sweet Brook Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, met Thursday with the administrative magistrate at the Division of Administrative Law Appeals for a pretrial conference.

The facility has been under increased scrutiny from state and federal agencies since summer 2017, when surveyors responding to complaints discovered a laundry list of violations, including the alleged abuse and neglect of residents.

After several additional inspection reports, including one in March that allegedly found sexual abuse between residents, the Department of Public Health moved to revoke the facility's license in April.

A month later, an attorney for Sweet Brook appealed the move to the Division of Administrative Law Appeals, and Thursday's hearing was the first attempt to either settle or litigate the matter.

"I'm very concerned about their well-being," Administrative Magistrate Mark Silverstein said of the 69 residents who remain at the facility, which had about 100 patients before the surveys began in 2017, Cichello said.

In addition to the more than 100 complaints that the DPH has received about the facility in the past two years, some of them alleging serious abuse, Sweet Brook owners owe more than $800,000 to MassHealth in user fees, Strong said.

 

The DPH is most concerned about a finding from March that staff failed to prevent sexual abuse between cognitively impaired residents. The abuse is believed to have occurred for as long as two years, and it appears that management had taken no action despite being "very much aware" of the situation, Strong said.