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New York State Department of Health Approves Plan for Carthage Area Hospital to Close its Skilled Nursing Unit
Hospital to Relocate Residents; Staff have Opportunities for Reassignment
The New York State Department of Health today approved a plan for Carthage Area Hospital to close its Skilled Nursing Unit and begin a process of transferring residents to other local skilled nursing facilities in the region.
The hospital submitted a plan to the Department of Health in late March to close its Skilled Nursing Unit, citing long-term financial challenges brought by changing state and federal mandates. The hospital’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the closure plan before it reached state officials.
Numerous regulations with which nursing homes must comply have tightened financial pressures on facilities like the one at the hospital. Escalating costs have also driven smaller skilled nursing homes that lack economies of scale to evaluate efficiencies and make difficult business decisions. This, combined with declining cost-based reimbursement for services provided to nursing home residents, has made the hospital’s decision essential.
“Despite our unwavering commitment to quality resident care, it has grown evident in recent years that we are unable to continue to operate the unit,” said Rich Duvall, Carthage Area Hospital chief executive officer. “This decision, while heart-wrenching, will strengthen the long-term viability of Carthage Area Hospital for our communities and the many patients we serve.”
As articulated in its closure plan, Duvall underscored the hospital’s commitment to relocate each of its residents to other local facilities whenever possible in order to reduce stress on residents and families.
“We are saddened that our residents will have to be relocated,” Duvall said. “Our team will help each resident and his or her family through this process in an attempt to make the transition as seamless as possible.”
Each of the hospital’s Skilled Nursing Unit’s 23 residents has been notified, as have their family members. Hospital staff is working with nearby facilities, including the 90-bed Country Manor Nursing Rehabilitation Centre adjacent to the hospital, to facilitate relocations.
Lewis County General Hospital’s 160-bed Residential Health Care Facility is another local facility that has offered to help. Michele Prince, interim chief executive officer in Lowville, pledged support to Carthage Hospital in its “request to the NYS DOH to close your Skilled Nursing Unit.”
“Our residential Health Care Facility is a family-oriented facility offering warm, state-of-the-art, comfortable care to individuals who need long-term or short-term 24-hour a day care,” Prince wrote in an April 3 letter to Carthage Hospital’s CEO.
Carthage Hospital has also sought support from leadership at Watertown’s Samaritan Health. Should space become available in one of the Samaritan facilities, the leadership there has offered to help.
Meanwhile, Carthage Hospital remains committed to delivering the highest quality resident care until its last resident is transferred.
“This decision will not impact the quality of our resident care or the compassion with which our staff provides care to our residents,” Duvall said. “Our team is fully invested until each resident is safely transferred.”
Impact to Carthage Hospital staff
The hospital’s Skilled Nursing Unit presently employees a full-time staff of 17, a part-time staff of four and a per diem staff of three. All employees except one manager are each members of the Upstate/WNY Division of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East-New York. Hospital and labor union leadership are working together on opportunities for staff reassignments in other hospital departments.
“This move is not about eliminating jobs to save money,” Duvall said. “In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We remain optimistic that we have the potential to preserve jobs. It is a process that all parties are committed to seeing through.”
The hospital has identified several open positions throughout the organization at various skill levels and plans to offer new positions and/or transfers to those affected by the unit closure. The total number of job losses, if any, won’t be calculated until reassignments are confirmed and all Skilled Nursing Unit patients are transferred.
Hospital leadership has also garnered support from state legislative leaders, including Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, R-Black River, who said he would work to help the hospital limit the number of displaced workers.
Carthage Area Hospital was established as a not-for-profit rural community hospital in 1965. It operates today as a fully accredited 25-bed Critical Access Hospital, serving approximately 83,000 residents in Jefferson, northern Lewis and southern St. Lawrence counties.
The hospital also operates a network of community-based clinics, including its Family Health Center, Pediatric Clinic and Women’s Way to Wellness and provides a range of specialty care, including general surgery, orthopedics, urology, physical therapy and behavioral health.