The hospital has stated that it will not close the facility until the 23 patients that currently occupy the center’s 26 long-term care beds find placement elsewhere. The closing will also affect 60 employees, but will not change the inpatient acute-care side of operations.
Administrators at Rockingham Manor and Britthaven of Hamlet are now discussing with FHRMH how best to absorb the upcoming discharge of staff and residents.
Residents of Palmer Hinson and their families will have access to assistance from case managers, discharge planners and other resources in their search for suitable living arrangements.
“We will work with Palmer Hinson staff and patients in whatever way possible,” said Jane Kinard, Administrator of Britthaven. “We don’t have a lot of available beds right now, but that is constantly changing.
“We have a sister facility in Albemarle, and that may be an option for patients with families in the northern end of the county, at least until we have openings here.”
According to John Stevenson, M.D., a decline in patient demand for the center’s rehabilitative services has rendered the hospital’s subsidy of the long-term care unit unsustainable.
“It was the decision that needed to be made to ensure the long-term success of impatient hospital care. The Palmer Hinson unit has been a staple of the community for many years, so this will be a difficult transition for the residents, their families and the employees. Our concern and attention is first and foremost with the patients, residents, families and staff of Palmer Hinson.”
Palmer Hinson is one of three long-term care facilities in Richmond County.
“This is an opportunity for us to show that our services are as good or better that what is provided elsewhere,” said Chad Colby, Administrator of Rockingham Manor. “A Richmond County resident who has surgery in Moore County is often referred to a rehabilitative facility in Moore County, and when that money leaves Richmond County it affects all of the facilities in the area.”
Irene Cooper, Admissions Coordinator at Britthaven, emphasized the importance of personal choice for families who are facing tough decisions on rehabilitation and long-term care.
“People are not always aware that they have options in their own county,” said Cooper. “I understand why a patient whose doctor is in Moore County would want to stay in a facility there, but many people don’t know that we (Britthaven) have a transportation person who will take them to those appointments, or we can schedule the appointment for a time when the doctor is in Richmond County.”
John Jackson, the president of Richmond Memorial, said the decision by the board was a difficult one.
“There has been a surplus of long-term care beds in the county for quite a while,” Jackson said. “The State Medical Facilities Plan, which uses population and utilization data to determine the number of beds needed in a county, lists Richmond County as having an excess of 42 long-term care beds. Therefore we anticipate minimal disruption with placing our residents in other facilities.”
Palmer Hinson, established in the late 1980s, occupies about 10,000 square feet inside Richmond Memorial. It is not a free-standing structure. Once the unit is closed in March, the space on the second floor will be used by other departments at the 180,000 square-foot hospital in Rockingham, Jackson said. The medical-surgical unit is also on the second floor.
Palmer Hinson consists of 26 beds for long-term care and 25 beds for rehabilitative care. As of Tuesday 12 of the 25 rehab beds were occupied. The hospital also is licensed for 99 acute care beds, and runs at about 40 percent occupancy.
The rehab beds are typically used by patients recovering from an operation, like hip replacement surgery. A typical stay is two weeks or less.
“FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital’s ability to provide health care to the community will emerge from this change in a stronger position,” Jackson said. “Our aim is to focus on our core hospital-based services and capitalize on our strengths and the opportunities around us to build an even better hospital for Richmond County. This year’s unstable economic times remind us that health care is not immune from market changes, but we have a solid foundation that will allow us to continue to deliver on our mission.”