Senior facilities to absorb closing Grass Valley hospital unit
December 18, 2012
With the transitional care unit poised for closure at Grass Valley's hospital, officials at area skilled-service facilities expect to pick up the slack and even some of the soon-to-be laid-off employees.
"It won't be a problem," said Brian Collier, administrator of Spring Hill Manor and Hospice.
"We have four nursing homes in town, which is a large number for a community this size," Collier said. "I think it will be as seamless of a transition as can be."
Along with Spring Hill, other skilled nursing facilities in the area include Crystal Ridge Care Center, Wolf Creek Care Center and Golden Empire Nursing and Rehab, all of which met Dec. 14 with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital to coordinate the transition.
Set for a February close, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital's Transitional Care Unit (TCU) serves as an intermediary "step-down" stage for patients on their way from more intensive hospitalization to a long-term care facility or returning home, providing services not available at home, such as lab work, therapy and intravenous medicines to predominately senior patients.
Sierra Memorial's TCU is a 17-bed, licensed, skilled nursing facility that has an average of 14 daily patients who stay an average of 14 days each, a large portion of whom are seniors, hospital spokeswoman Debbie Plass said.
When the impending TCU shut down was reported Dec. 7, Plass told The Union that part of the decision was based on the availability of skilled nursing at other Grass Valley facilities. But its shuttering came as no surprise to administrators of the convalescent homes, who said rumors of the closure preceded the event by a number of years.
"We've been positioning ourselves for quite a while to take on more acute patients," said Joe Cunliffe, administrator of Wolf Creek Care Center, which has 58 licensed beds, of which 85 to 90 percent are filled.
"If we were to get some more patients, we can absolutely take care of those people," Cunliffe said.
Golden Empire is the largest of the convalescent homes, licensed for 148 beds, which Admissions Director Diana Dallago said tend to be about 97 percent filled.
Spring Hill is licensed for 86 beds, which Collier said typically are around 91 percent filled.
Attempts to reach Crystal Ridge administrators Monday were unsuccessful. The facility is licensed for 99 beds.
"This is an unfortunate situation, but the bright side is that the skilled (nursing) community will be able to absorb the change," Collier said. "I really think this is going to be seamless."
In Nevada County, people who are 65 and older make up 20.2 percent of the population, according to the 2010 U.S. census — more than their statewide 11.2 percent proportion.
In California, the elderly population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the total population, and this growth will vary by region, according to the California Department of Aging. Nevada County's 65-and-older demographic is anticipated to increase by as much as 150 percent, and the 85-and-older demographic is expected to increase by as much as 300 percent.
Many of the convalescent homes' patients come from the hospital, administrators said.
"We can do 95 percent of what the TCU can do," Collier said.
A heart attack, stroke or surgery patient who goes to the TCU, then to Spring Hill or one of the other facilities has to re-adjust to new care providers and routines, Dallago said. But going straight to those places will make for an easier recovery, she said.
To handle increased transition patients, Dallago said facilities will have to provide more acute care — and many already do. Area facilities already provide X-rays and other acute services. They may also have to take on younger patients.
For higher acute services, such as repository therapy, Dallago said patients may remain at Sierra Nevada Memorial longer than they have since the TCU opened in 1994.
"I'm thinking more facilities will have to be almost acute rehab," Dallago said. "As a facility, we are trying to figure out how we are going to get to that higher level."
Part of expanding those services could include absorbing some of the 21 full-time equivalent TCU positions set to be eliminated as the unit closes.
While hospital personnel are reportedly working closely with affected employees to identify other opportunities in the Dignity Health system for which they may be qualified, all the convalescent facilities have been in contact with TCU staff, Cunliffe said.
"We would love to absorb as many employees as we can," Cunliffe said.
Collier shared that sentiment.
"We'll be looking to hire some of the staff," he said.
As for the TCU facilities at the hospital, Plass said nothing has been outlined to fill the closed unit.
"We have no plans for that area," Plass said.
Eventually, the area could be used for non-clinical purposes, such as administrative offices or other business functions.
"But we have no plans right now for what or when," she said.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call (530) 477-4236.