Hospital says no to nursing home


By Jim Poole

Longed for by families with elderly relatives, a nursing home won't be returning to Schoharie County.
Cobleskill Regional Hospital officials announced Monday that they abandoned plans to build a home on the site of the former Eden Park Nursing Home.
CRH made the decision after learning several weeks ago that it would be receiving a $10 million grant for nursing home construction from the state Health Department, which is giving no new grants for nursing homes statewide.
"Not getting that grant made it inarguably very clear what we had to do," hospital President and CEO Eric Stein said Monday.
"It wasn't a hard decision then, but it was an emotional one."
The hospital purchased the Eden Park building, right next to its campus in Cobleskill, shortly after the nursing home closed in 2007.
Plans were in place to tear down Eden Park--which was in bad shape, Mr. Stein said--and build a 100-bed facility there. Grants, however, were key elements of the $24 million project.
Other factors have changed since 2007, also. Besides the recession and a weak economy, the hospital has had to deal with declining Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
Also, the federal government has slashed Medicaid reimbursements for nursing homes, and one in Schoharie County would have been heavily dependent on Medicaid payments.
"Even if we had received the grant," Mr. Stein said, "the board of trustees would have had to make another decision about whether to go forward. It's a struggle right now to run a nursing home."
Essential to the CRH decision is that officials didn't want a nursing home to put the hospital itself in financial jeopardy.
"From the beginning when we talked about this, we always wanted to protect the hospital," Mr. Stein said. "We couldn't allow a nursing home to drag down the hospital."
Keeping the hospital viable, he added, is necessary for the elderly population it already serves.
The hospital already provides many key services to the region's elderly, "who count on CRH for emergency care, inpatient care, short-term inpatient rehabilitation and so much more," Mr. Stein said.
"In fact, nearly 70 percent of our inpatients are over age 65. They need a strong, local hospital."
CRH's services for the elderly will continue, and the hospital, as part of the Bassett Healthcare Network, will evaluate long-term care needs "and the hospital's role in addressing them," Mr. Stein said.
The state Health Department's thrust is in alternate forms of long-term care--at home, for instance--and is moving away from institutionalized care, such as nursing homes.
"Ongoing focus will need to be in line with the future direction of long-term care and evolving models of service delivery, which are aimed at caring for seniors in the home and in other community-based settings," Mr. Stein said.
Whether it was to build a nursing home or not, CRH had already planned to demolish the former Eden Park and will do so, he said.
The hospital invested about $100,000 for nursing home development. And even though Eden Park is winterized and used only for storage, maintenance costs the hospital between $30,000 and $50,000 annually, Mr. Stein said.