Carthage Area Hospital to Close 'Skilled Nursing Unit'

Carthage Area Hospital to Close 'Skilled Nursing Unit'

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Carthage Area Hospital is closing its skilled nursing unit. The move means 23 people must find a new place to live, and two dozen employees need new jobs.

The skilled nursing unit is basically a small nursing home within the hospital.

Closing the skilled nursing unit is expected to take several months.

Hospital officials received permission to close from the state Department of Health late Friday afternoon. They were notifying residents of the unit, their families and unit employees Friday night.

The hospital plans to help move residents to other local facilities "whenever possible," according to a press release Friday night. That includes Country Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre next to the hospital; Lewis County General Hospital's residential care facility; and Samaritan Health's nursing facilities in Watertown.

“We are saddened that our residents will have to be relocated,” hospital chief executive officer Rich Duvall said in the press release.

“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.”

What happens to the staff?

According to the press release, the unit has 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," according to the press release.

"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 the release. “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 said it has several open positions throughout the organization and plans to offer new positions and/or transfers to the employees losing their jobs in the Skilled Nursing Unit. The hospital said in its statement that "The total number of job losses, if any, won’t be calculated until reassignments are confirmed and all Skilled Nursing Unit patients are transferred."

Why is the hospital closing the nursing unit, which has been open since 1965? In its statement, the hospital cited "numerous regulations" which have "tightened financial pressures." The hospital also said the unit is too small to take advantage of "economies of scale," and has suffered "declining cost-based reimbursement."

Just two days ago, the hospital announced it's now operating in the black, for the first time in seven years.

Hospital officials said Friday night that the Skilled Nursing unit lost about $100,000 in 2016. The hospital said it plans to concentrate on offering other services and will "repurpose" the space now occupied by the Skilled Nursing Unit, about 10 percent of the hospital, for other things. What those other things are was not clear Friday night.

“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 Duvall in the written statement.

“This decision, while heart-wrenching, will strengthen the long-term viability of Carthage Area Hospital for our communities and the many patients we serve.”

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