“The decision to close was not taken lightly, and we’ve worked diligently for over a year to try to keep Palmer Hinson viable,” said John Jackson, president of Richmond Memorial Hospital.
“We share and understand the disappointment and frustration of family members and residents. We exhausted all options before reaching this decision.”
Chad Colby, administrator of Rockingham Manor nursing home, said he and his staff are trying to make the experience as easy as possible for the seven residents that have been transferred to his facility. The hospital announced the closing on Jan. 6 and said it planned to have residents out by March.
“Due to the sudden on-come of this announcement we at Rockingham Manor have been working hard to assist family members and residents through this decision process. Some staff members from Rockingham Manor were even visiting the transferring residents and families prior to their discharge from Palmer Hinson to help the residents and families feel more at ease.”
Celia Altman of Hamlet felt that something could have been done to prevent sending her mother, who had been at Palmer Hinson for six years, to another facility.
“I don’t feel that FirstHealth has any concern for the community that it should serve. Moving my mother was a traumatic experience.”
Chris Wilson of Rockingham had similar feelings.
“My grandmother has taken this place in as her home. She loves it there and is happy and content living there. To do them (the residents) like this is a shame. Before she was unable to do for herself, she was an active volunteer spending numerous hours helping others in Palmer Hinson, and now that she is here, staying, they are kicking her out.
“For this to be a family and community hospital, it sounds like the people running this have no feelings about the elderly people living there. Their only concern is the bottom line.”
According to Colby, all of the discharged residents and their families were very satisfied with Palmer Hinson. They are all moving forward, but not without expressing their disappointment.
“The residents and family members that chose Palmer Hinson, chose that facility for any number of reasons. Placing any loved one in a nursing home is a difficult decision. Unfortunately, now these families and residents are being asked to make another decision regarding nursing home placement.
“One resident had been there (Palmer Hinson) for 18 years, so she had very strong ties. It isn’t just getting used to something new, it was their home. Everyone had a choice, it wasn’t like they said ‘You go to Rockingham Manor, you go to Britthaven...’”
According to FirstHealth spokeswoman Emily Sloan, FirstHealth seeks to do the greatest good for the largest number of patients in the community, but they are not immune to the current economic downturn. FirstHealth wants to continue to maintain the quality of services that it provides to the community. A decreased demand for rehabilitative services rendered continuance of the long-term care unit unsustainable in terms of that mission.
“This is definitely a difficult decision to close Palmer Hinson, but one that we felt was necessary. We know that this is a difficult transition. The majority of the residents moved to Hermitage, Britthaven and Rockingham Manor there in Richmond County.”
According to Bob Garner, Communications Director for the North Carolina state AARP office, there is no easy answer to be found here.
“These facilities do have the right to make these decisions, and it’s just a terribly painful situation for all involved, especially those whose families must now find other arrangements.
“I will say that it is better for a facility to close and put people through the terrible inconvenience of having to be moved than to operate so close to the bottom line that shortcuts are taken and care becomes substandard, which is certainly possible in a situation like this,” Garner said.
According to Sloan, job placement for all discharged Palmer Hinson employees is in motion, but not fully resolved.
“Severance benefits are being provided to the employees affected by the closing of the Palmer Hinson Care Center. Several staff have been offered jobs with other FirstHealth departments and some staff have found positions with other organizations.
“FirstHealth Human Resources will continue to offer assistance to those still seeking employment within FirstHealth and with other organizations.”