Carthage Area Hospital this week completed the closure of its Skilled Nursing Unit, turning in to the state Department of Health an operating certificate nearly three weeks ahead of its projected schedule and delivering on a commitment to help keep affected residents in the region.
The last of the unit’s 23 residents was transferred to another local skilled nursing facility last week, completing a process that began June 19 and involved members of the hospital’s Skilled Nursing Unit, Social Work Services, Therapy Services and Accounting departments, as well as senior administration, working together to secure the best possible outcome for residents and their families.
“We sincerely appreciate the understanding of our residents and their family members,” Carthage Area Hospital CEO Rich Duvall said in a news release. “We would not have succeeded without their trust and patience during a time of uncertainty and change.”
All resident transfers were made to facilities in Jefferson and Lewis counties, minimizing the impact on families affected by the moves, a pledge hospital leadership made when it announced plans to close the unit. Facilities operated by Samaritan Health, Watertown; Lewis County General Hospital & Residential Health Care Facility, Lowville; and Country Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre, Carthage, each accepted residents for care.
“Our closure process was 100 percent focused on doing our best for each resident and limiting the burden of a decision that was, while extremely difficult, necessary to strengthen the long-term sustainability of our hospital,” Duvall said. “The fact that all residents are settling within 20 miles of Carthage is a testament to the many partnerships we have worked to develop with other local facilities. We value the efforts of all who work together to serve those who seek care.”
What’s more, Duvall noted, the capacity of local facilities to accept transfers from Carthage Area Hospital also proves prudent the decision to close the Skilled Nursing Unit and eliminate redundancy in the market, allowing more modern facilities to operate with greater occupancy.
Duvall added that the smooth transfer of skilled nursing residents would not have been so without the commitment of dozens of hospital staff who are invested in delivering first-rate care to all whom the hospital serves.
“Staff worked with compassion to accommodate each resident, minimize stress and maintain a high standard of care,” Duvall said. “For many staff, whose own futures were uncertain, this was a trying task, but one that was met with boundless professionalism.”
In accordance with the Skilled Nursing Unit closure plan, staff from the hospital’s Social Work Services Department will continue weekly resident follow up for 30 days after transfer to ensure residents have properly adjusted and no longer need assistance from the hospital.
Each of the hospital’s 24-member Skilled Nursing Unit staff was presented with options for retention and reassignment within Carthage Area Hospital. Only one employee chose not to pursue opportunities with the organization. The remaining Skilled Nursing Unit employees have filled various openings throughout several different departments at Carthage Area Hospital and are presently working in their new positions while receiving training.
Meanwhile, hospital leadership is in the process of finalizing plans with architects for adaptive reuse of the former Skilled Nursing Unit as clinical space. Mandates included in New York State’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program call for a shift in clinical space utilization to a “medical village” concept. That has helped to guide the decision-making process and determine what new or existing services the space will house.
On June 19, the New York State Department of Health approved a plan for the hospital to close its Skilled Nursing Unit and begin the process of transferring residents to other local skilled nursing facilities in the region.
Numerous regulations with which nursing homes must comply tightened financial pressures on facilities like the one the hospital managed. Escalating costs had also driven smaller skilled nursing homes without economies of scale to evaluate efficiencies and make difficult business decisions. That, combined with declining cost-based reimbursement for services provided to nursing home residents, made the decision to close the Skilled Nursing Unit essential.