PBMC will close its skilled nursing facility by the end of the year and reallocate the space to other clinical needs

Peconic Bay Medical Center is closing its skilled nursing facility before the end of the year.

Hospital administrators briefed residents and family members during a meeting this morning at the facility.

The 60-bed skilled nursing facility, which opened in 1985, will close “on or about” Dec. 22, PBMC chief executive Amy Loeb said.

The Acadia Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Riverhead has committed to accepting the facility’s current 12 long-term residents, Loeb said, noting that residents and their families can choose the facility they prefer and that PBMC will help them move.

The reason for the closure is “to reallocate clinical space,” Loeb said.

“The hospital has grown tremendously in terms of the services and programs we offer in the community,” she said. “It has always been based on the needs of the community. So heart attack care, stroke care, trauma care – the number of traumas that we’ve been taking care of since 2018 has doubled, and so has the others,” Loeb said. “The growth has been truly exceptional and we are delighted to be able to meet the needs of the community in this way. We need to make sure we have the space and the resources to keep up with this growth.

The number of residents in the skilled nursing facility has declined over the past two years, Loeb said.

“The pandemic has been very difficult for skilled nursing facilities, and I must say that I am extremely proud of the care our skilled nursing facility has provided for years – throughout the pandemic and since the pandemic. We have amazing team members there,” she said.

The closure will displace the facility’s 40 full-time and part-time workers, Loeb said. She said the hospital has already reallocated about half that number to other units in the hospital. The hospital will work to find positions for the remaining employees, either at PBMC or at another Northwell facility, Loeb said.

“It was a very, very, very difficult decision,” she said.

“This is the Residents’ home and we fully appreciate and understand what that means,” Loeb said. “For these people, it is very, very difficult. But as we continue to grow and be able to provide vital services that no one else can provide in this community. That’s, that’s the reason behind it. We have to keep doing it,” she said.

There are plenty of beds available at skilled nursing facilities in the community, Loeb said. But PBMC is the only hospital.

“So we have to grow to provide the services that only we can provide and allow those other facilities in the community to provide the care that they can provide.” said Loeb.

PBMC filed its closure plan with the state Department of Health in late September and received approval late last week, Loeb said.

The hospital administration called the family members yesterday to invite them to a meeting at the skilled nursing facility this morning. State health department personnel were present. Only two family members were present and they were both very unhappy with the decision, the timing of the closing and the short notice given for the meeting this morning.

Diane Fitzgerald, whose mother has lived there since April, said the notice given for today’s meeting was “ridiculous”. She received a call from a social worker at 2.15pm yesterday afternoon, she said. Luckily, she says, she was able to attend.

Loeb said the hospital was prohibited from making a closure announcement until it received state approval for the closure plan. Once notified of the approval, she said, administrators want to meet with residents and their family members as soon as possible because rumors were circulating in the community.

She said the facility would meet with patients and family members one-on-one to answer questions and facilitate transitions to other nursing facilities.

Fitzgerald heard about the fence before today’s meeting from a friend who recently had orthopedic surgery. Her friend’s surgeon was complaining about it, Fitzgerald said.

Loeb said the need for inpatient rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery, including joint replacement, “has changed dramatically,” she said.

“Five or 10 years ago, people who had had joint replacement surgery would come in, get the joint replacement, stay in the hospital for three days, and then go to rehab here at the facility. That has changed,” Loeb said. “Medicare and other payers — and really, it’s a trend across the country — have really pushed patients to go home. So now patients have joint replacements, they go home the next day or maybe the day after, but they go home. So it’s very, very different.

Fitzgerald said local long-term care options are few and, in his view, unsatisfactory. She is determined to rally the community to try and change the hospital administrators’ minds about closing the facility. Its closure will have a negative effect on the whole East End, she said.

Fitzgerald circulated a petition against the closure and also posted the petition on the Change.org website.

Loeb said the hospital is still evaluating how best to use the 20,000 square foot space currently occupied by the skilled nursing facility.

“It will, no doubt, be acute care, but we still have to go through the process of getting state approval,” Loeb said. “We have to submit these authorized beds, because they are qualified nursing facilities [beds], return to state. So we need to do an assessment of the space and understand what it will take to convert it,” she said. “But we continually need to develop acute medical-surgical beds. And as you know, women’s health is a top priority for us. So we still have work to do and we still have to work with the state, but we have to keep developing those two services.

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