NBH Sells Sweetwood, Sweet Brook

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Sweetwood in Williamstown has been sold.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Northern Berkshire Healthcare has sold off Sweet Brook Care Centers and Sweetwood Continuing Care Community for $3.8 million to a company that operates a wide range of senior care facilities in New Jersey.

Update: The North Adams Transcript reports the total sale was $6.6 million. The two facilities were operated as Northern Berkshire Community Services Inc. and we could only find a deed for $3.8 million on that appeared to include both properties. The Transcript, however, said it had found a separate price for Sweet Brook of $2.84 million.

DES Senior Care Holdings LLC, a Delaware company with headquarters in Fort Lee, N.J., purchased Sweet Brook of Williamstown Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and Sweetwood of Williamstown Independent Living Community as 1611 Cold Spring Road LLC and 1561 Cold Spring Road LLC, respectively.

The sale, dated Aug. 12, took effect on Sunday, Aug. 15, with Sweetwood and Sweet Brook providing the same care "from largely the same dedicated employees," according to a statement from the health care system.

Sweetwood was put on the market more than two years ago because NBH officials said it didn't fit the health system's portfolio of health care properties. The high-end residential facility was designed 23 years ago with an eye toward retirees looking for independent living with a clublike atmosphere. Sweetwood residents did get the choice of moving on to Sweet Brook Care Centers, the adjacent 184-bed skilled nursing facility that also offers rehabilitation services and care for Alzheimer's and dementia.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to address NBH debt associated with operating the facilities and investments in equipment and facilities, both to meet its mission as an acute care provider for the region and in response to bondholder requests.

In March, Fitch Ratings downgraded NBH's bonds because of "worsening operating losses, a deteriorating cash position, and continued delay in the sale of its underperforming senior care businesses."

Sweetwood was picked up by NBH in 1999 in a package deal with the nursing home. But the financial crash has taken a toll on the 70-unit luxury residence and NBH was hoping to off-load the facility. The health-care system's also been struggling for the past couple years as pension funds lost value and governmental reimbursements for Medicaid and Medicare failed to keep up with costs. It's laid off staffing and is in the middle of its second difficult union contract negotiation in a year.

"Selling Sweetwood and Sweet Brook will support the continued operation of this community resource and I am confident this move will benefit the Northern Berkshire community," said Richard Palmisano, president and CEO of NBH. "It also allows NBH to focus our energy on the core health-care resources we provide to the community."

The health-care system is still taking a bath on the properties since they were purchased for $16.3 million from the Hickey family a decade ago under a previous administration.

DES Senior Care Holdings is one of several companies of health-care industry veteran Daniel E. Straus. He founded CareOne LLC in 1999 and it now operates nearly 40 senior living and health care facilities in New Jersey and a half-dozen in Virginia and North Carolina. CareOne is described as "a family-owned and operated health care continuum."

NBH officials said they had considered more than 120 potential purchasers before selecting the company, which was recently certified to operate in Massachusetts. "The goals were to identify a buyer who would operate both Sweetwood and Sweet Brook in a way that meets the needs of the residents, while investing in the facilities to promote high quality care for the region's seniors," according to the press release.

"Both Sweetwood and Sweet Brook have been a part of this community for years, and we look forward to continuing to offer the quality of health care and independent living services that residents of Williamstown as well as throughout the Northern Berkshire community have come to expect," said company spokesman Peter J. Ward. "We look forward to being a part of this community and providing residents and their families the best in skilled nursing care and independent living services available."

A call to Ward for comment was not returned on Monday.
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