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United Helpers to close nursing home

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 2:59 PM EDT
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TOWN OF OSWEGATCHIE, New York (WWNY) - United Helpers is closing one of its nursing homes.

The United Helpers Rehabilitation & Senior Care facility just outside Ogdensburg is shutting its doors on September 1.

“This decision follows months of deliberation and careful consideration,” reads a news release from United Helpers.

Officials said they notified the home’s 106 residents and their families, and work is underway to transfer residents to facilities of their choosing.

United Helpers said the decision was made due to inadequate Medicaid reimbursement, increased costs, a growth in options for in-home care, and a decreased need for skilled nursing facility beds.

“The primary reason for this decision to close is based on the long-standing concerns regarding reimbursement for the nursing home industry,” said Stacey Cannizzo, United Helpers vice president of clinical and quality services.

United helpers did not cite COVID-19 as a reason for the closure. By late January, 23 residents had died from the illness. Nearly all patients contracted it at one time or another.

The news release, which can be seen at the bottom of this story, made no mention of the employees who work at the nursing home, but sources tell 7 News that 200 workers are affected; 150 of them are full-time.

Employees learned about the closure Tuesday. Each took it in their own way.

“Some people more harder than others because, obviously, (some) people have worked here for about 30, 30-plus years. To them, it’s sort of getting kicked out the door,” said James Ellard, employee.

Late Tuesday afternoon, United Helpers said it will work to get employees training so they can transfer jobs.

New York State Department of Health approved United Helpers’ plan to close the facility.

“According to the approved plan, all of the residents will be relocated to other long term care facilities as soon as possible. DOH will monitor the facility as closure activities commence to make sure every resident is relocated to an appropriate level of care,” said DOH Public Information Officer Jeffrey Hammond in an email.

State Senator Patty Ritchie said she has done all she could to help United Helpers overcome its challenges.

“I am both devastated and heartbroken over United Helpers’ decision to close its skilled nursing facility in Ogdensburg. For more than 100 years, United Helpers has been synonymous with quality care for the North Country’s most vulnerable citizens. The decision to end over a century of caring for the elderly in Ogdensburg is a serious departure from its core mission,” said Ritchie (R. - 48th District) in a prepared statement.

She said she has met with top-level health officials in Albany to try to convince the state to provide United Helpers officials with the assistance they needed.

“I have also advocated for the state to increase its Medicaid reimbursement rate, voicing my concerns on this issue to New York’s Department of Health Commissioner at hearings in recent years. Despite the tireless efforts of organizations like United Helpers, the state’s refusal to raise the reimbursement rate—which has not been increased since 2008—is causing our rural nursing homes to fail financially,” she said.

Ritchie said she’s ready to work with United Helpers and state officials to keep the facility open.

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