NYS officials call Elderwood deal a “unique” opportunity for rural health

By Tracey Drury for Buffalo Business First — Calling it an experiment in improving rural health access, state health officials have advanced a plan by Elderwood’s owners to acquire a Lake Placid nursing home.

Elderwood parent Post Acute Partners has been working for the past year on the deal with Adirondack Medical Center to acquire its Uihlein Living Center, a 156-bed residential health facility. Financial difficulties have led the hospital to operate just 80 beds at the site, leading to low occupancy.

The Williamsville-based company, which operates 18 senior living sites in Central and Western New York, has offered $600,000 for the Lake Placid facility and has already negotiated with union leaders to restructure salaries and benefits to cut costs at the site. It also plans to make improvements at the site to help bring back residents, many of whom are choosing sites 30 miles away or beyond.

The project was discussed Jan. 28 by the establishment committee of the state Health Department’s Public Health and Health Planning Council. Jeffrey Kraut, chairman of the council, told the committee the deal should lead to expanded hospital services for area residents: Adirondack Medical Center, which operates a hospital and freestanding emergency department, is proposing significant improvements at both sites. Currently, many local individuals go outside of the immediate area to receive hospital services.

“Those individuals that would progress to a nursing home or rehab would be more likely to stay in the area and at this nursing home,” he said. “That’s a major component of the business plan.”

Dr. Angel Gutierrez, a downstate physician who sits on the committee, said the plan offers a unique opportunity, especially since Adirondack Medical Center is losing millions of dollars each year on the operation and has indicated it may close the facility if the sale does not go through.

“This is an experiment: how does the community-at-large come up with ideas that will allow for continuation of care?” he said. “We can helicopter out the emergency cases, but we cannot do this for nursing home people. Perhaps we should make this a project we will watch and learn from.”

Warren Cole, co-owner of Post Acute Partners, told the committee the company believes a new delivery model will turn around the operation.

“When we think about rural health care, it is a very different dynamic and we have to think about new delivery models and different modalities of care,” he said. “These are things not currently happening in the current nursing home model. This is an important model and we’re willing to undertake it.”

Committee members approved the application, which will now advance to the full council for consideration at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Tracey Drury covers health/medical, nonprofits and insurance.

Read the Article on BizJournals.com »