Saturday, December 29, 2007

Special memories

Today the census in Community General’s licensed nursing home is in the single digits. Our census was 48 just 90 days ago when New York State announced it would provide the funding to help Community comply with the Berger Commission.

With the funding, Community and Van Duyn Home and Hospital were able to go forward with plans to downsize our combined nursing home capacity. On November 5 I announced specific dates for the closure of Community’s 50 nursing home beds. Our census had already started to fall – it was 41. By December 15, when we formally reported the 30-day closure plan, the census was 13. Today we have just seven residents.

Community has cooperated with the Berger Commission decisions, both in negotiations with New York State and with Onondaga County, Van Duyn's owner. I have written much about the Berger Commission and its impact on Community and Van Duyn in previous posts.[1]

The Berger Commission has attracted nationally attention, and the current issue of Modern Healthcare, reports:

One year after becoming law, New York’s landmark experiment in mandated hospital closures, mergers, and restructuring is proceeding as planned. In fact the majority of affected hospitals and nursing homes are meeting or exceeding the June 30, 2008 deadline, according to state Health Commissioner Richard Daines.
With Van Duyn, Community's mandate is to downsize nursing home beds and to coordinate medical planning. In association with Onondaga County we have responded directly.

1. Community has transferred residents from our sixth floor nursing home to Van Duyn and to other area residential health care facilities. This has been done gradually and smoothly with respect for patients and their families. There has been no negative impact on the area's nursing homes which collectively operate at about 97% occupancy. In addition to the closure of Community's 50 nursing home beds, Van Duyn plans to decertify another 13 beds next year.

2. This week Community and Onondaga County signed an agreement to form a joint planning company that will oversee and coordinate planning on the Community-Van Duyn shared medical campus. This agreement was reported last evening on WTVH-TV in Syracuse with speculation as to what such coordinated planning might mean. There are no specific plans for shared “food, laundry or and nursing facilities,” as reported. But the joint planning company, when it becomes operational next year, will look to improve clinical specialization and coordination and will seek opportunities for cost savings and medical campus development.

3. Finally, New York State has committed some $12.8 million to Community and Van Duyn. These funds will be used for capital improvements in Community’s medical-surgical areas and in Van Dun’s long term care service areas, as recommended by the Berger Commission. They will also help the to-be-formed joint company begin its coordinated planning process.

Despite this good news, the fact remains that 48 residents have been (and are being) relocated from Community to other facilities. In addition, some 60 full-time and part-time employees will no longer have jobs on Community’s sixth floor.

The loss of jobs has been (and is) a source of concern and upset within the hospital, as evidenced by SEIU1199's requests for the hospital to maintain these positions, despite the loss of work. Unfortunately, Community cannot afford to do this, as I explained in a letter to the labor union's officers on December 3.

Special thanks are due to our sixth floor management and employees for the professional and sensitive ways they have worked with residents during this disruptive and sometimes heart-wrenching process.

Two weeks ago, sixth floor residents received holiday tree ornaments as mementos of the time they have lived at Community. Employees visited former residents who are now at other nursing homes to give them the ornaments. It was a sensitive gesture, illustrative of the care and purpose with which employees (who are themselves affected by the sixth floor closure) have addressed the transition with residents.

Congratulations to Maureen Cerniglia, Community’s Director of Continuing Care and licensed nursing home administrator. After closure, she will become the licensed nursing home administrator at Van Duyn under the administration of County Executive-elect Joanie Mahoney.

Special thanks, also, to Joseph T. Barry, MD. Dr. Barry was recently honored as a member of the medical staff with the STAR award for his demonstration of “star” qualities (sensitivity, thoughtfulness appreciation respect). He has served as our sixth floor medical director for 19 years.

[1]A positive side to Berger compliance,” November 9, 2007; “When our sixth floor will close,” November 5, 2007; “State funds will help compliance with Berger Commission,” October 2, 2007; “No secrets,” August 12, 2007; “Today's news about the Berger Commission,” August 14, 2007; “What's up with the Berger Commission,” July 28, 2007; “Q&A on CGH and Van Duyn,” January 20, 2007; “What the Berger Commission said,” December 2, 2006; and “My testimony before the Senate Health Committee,” December 1, 2006.

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