Adirondack Health, based in Saranac Lake, says most hospital services will still be provided on an expanded medical campus near the Uihlein nursing home. The company also hopes to develop a new network of apartments and social services that could mean fewer elderly residents needing nursing home care.
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Chandler Ralph, head of what used to be called Adirondack Medical Center and is now rebranded as Adirondack Health, says the Lake Placid hospital and nursing home are losing more than a million dollars a year. The first step to stopping the red ink, she says, is consolidating both facilities on the 13-acre property around the nursing home.
The hospital building that’s been used in Lake Placid since the 1950s, she says, will be closed and likely torn down. "Running two campuses five minutes apart from each other is not terribly efficient," Ralph said.
Most of the hospital and nursing operations will continue in an expanded facility around the Uihlein nursing home, but roughly 60 beds that are now used by residents who require long-term care will be eliminated. Ralph says the move was prompted by Medicaid reimbursement rates that now mean Adirondack Health is losing between $60 and $80 per day for many residents.
In the future, Ralph says, poor people who need nursing home care will have fewer options. "We will still take Medicaid admissions, but it won't be all comers like we're taking now. We can't afford it," she said.
Ralph described the restricting in Lake Placid as part of a much wider crisis in senior care in New York and nationwide. More and more families are relying on Medicaid to pay the costs of senior and long-term care, but taxpayers have been unwilling to pay for increases in reimbursements to hospitals and nursing homes.
"The state does not have a firm public policy on how we're going to treat the elderly and service the elderly in the future, in my humble opinion," Ralph said. There are currently only three nursing homes in Essex County.
This announcement came one day before the Essex County board of supervisors votes on the future of another facility: the Horace Nye home that houses a hundred residents in Elizabethtown. County leaders are expected to vote to privatize that facility, which is losing roughly $2 million a year. Questions have been raised about whether that home, too, will curtail admissions of poor residents who rely on Medicaid.
Ralph says Adirondack Health hopes to ease some of the pressure on nursing homes by developing a new block of assisted living apartments, and by helping to strengthen the network of resources that allow elderly and infirm people to remain in their homes as long as possible. But Ralph acknowledged that in the very near future, many low-income families from this rural area may have to travel much farther to find a nursing home when that kind of care is required.
"I think that is going to be more of a challenge in the future than it has been in the past. Because if we're at sixty beds...we're going to be full most of the time, quite frankly," said Ralph. According to her, the 60 nursing home beds that will be eliminated over the next two years will be cut through attrition as residents move or pass away. She says no residents will be forced to relocate.