Some local leaders say the changes took them by surprise, but they also expressed broad comfort with the plan, which could eventually include expanded services and new assisted living apartments. Brian Mann has details.
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On Monday, Adirondack health CEO Chandler Ralph laid out what she described as a new vision for health care in Lake Placid, closing the old hospital and consolidating medical services on an expanded campus around the Uihlein nursing home. "Our vision is assisted living, senior independent housing and the Uihlein building which will house 60 long-term care beds, and the hospital services if we can get them all in there," Ralph said.
Local reaction to the plan has been generally positive, though some local officials say it took them by surprise. North Elba town supervisor Roby Politi says he wasn’t briefed before Monday’s announcement in Saranac Lake, and said, "I haven't been briefed other than what I read in an email and in the newspaper. We will certainly continue to monitor via the department of health what they're planning on doing and hopefully we'll be part of the discussion."
Politi said he thought the new plan reflected "a last minute change in strategy for them that none of us was really aware of." He added that so long as Adirondack Health continues to provide a comparable range of hospital and emergency room services on the Uihlein campus, he’s comfortable with the approach he’s read about in local newspapers.
That view was shared by Lake Placid village Mayor Craig Randall, a former hospital board trustee, who says he did take part in brainstorming and focus group sessions before this plan was unveiled. "That was a topic of concern, particularly that emergency room services would continue to exist here on a 24-hours, seven-day a week basis. There is no change contemplated in the level of service that they are currently providing," Randall said.
Adirondack Health spokesman Joe Riccio confirmed this week that the company does plan to maintain the same level of hospital and emergency room service that now exists in Lake Placid. One other key part of the plan involves the development of new assisted living apartments and the elimination of as many as 60 nursing home beds at the Uihlein nursing home. Adirondack Health says it was losing more than a million dollars a year providing nursing home are to low-income Medicaid recipients.
Politi and Randall both expressed some concern about long-term care for village seniors, but they said downsizing the nursing home seemed to make sense, given low Medicaid reimbursements from Albany. "The reimbursement is substantially below what the cost of providing the service is. Obviously that is what has brought AMC-Uihlein to the point of looking in a diffrent direction for those skilled nursing beds," Randall said.
"It is not economical to be in the nursing home business," Politi said. "This whole system is broken."
The changes in Lake Placid health care are expected to be made over the next two years.