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Kinney Nursing Home closure is approved

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GOUVERNEUR — The state Department of Health has approved a closure plan for Kinney Nursing Home, which could shut its doors as soon as May 7.

“It’s obvious everyone in the community wanted to keep it open and yet it’s being closed,” said the Rev. Robert F. LaVeck, president of the Greater Gouverneur Council of Churches and a member of a task force that tried to keep the nursing home open. “We, the people, are losing our democracy.”

The Rev. Mr. LaVeck said Gouverneur Hospital CEO Marlinda L. LaValley told him Monday night the 40-bed nursing home, which has 22 residents, was going to close.

The closure date will depend on finding the remaining residents a place to live, said Kathy M. Tucker, vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 1199, which represents about 100 employees at Gouverneur Hospital and the nursing home.

Gouverneur Hospital leased staff to the nursing home. The number of Gouverneur Hospital staff affected by the nursing home closure is 34, spokeswoman Rebecca J. Faber said.

Employees who face layoff received Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notices — required by the U.S. Department of Labor when a facility closes — in the mail Tuesday.

“It’s really a pretty helpless feeling,” Ms. Tucker said.

The list of those receiving notices totaled 61, including two managers in dietary and activities, but some will regain employment because of bumping rights based on seniority.

“It’s really going to have an impact on the community,” Ms. Tucker said. “Those employees get very close to the residents. It’s tragic for those residents.”

The list of union employees losing their jobs includes licensed practical nurses, certified nurse assistants, activity aides and dietary workers.

SEIU will be left representing 55 workers at Gouverneur Hospital. It represented 135 workers at the hospital and nursing home before E.J. Noble Hospital — the predecessor to Gouverneur Hospital — ran afoul of the Health Department.

All affected employees will be paid until June 28 whether they are needed or not, Ms. Tucker said.

“It’s of course dependent on whether they’ve placed all the residents or not,” she said.

Ms. Tucker said she already has heard that there are some jobs available for LPNs and home health aides at Carthage Area Hospital and Meadowbrook Terrace, a 60-bed assisted living facility in the town of Champion.

The Rev. Mr. LaVeck said he has heard that the nursing home building may become a drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit.

“I don’t care about the building,” he said. “I just care about keeping a nursing home in the community.”

About a dozen members of the task force, which met Tuesday night at the Methodist Church, agreed to have Dierdre K. Scozzafava, a former mayor who is deputy secretary of state for local government and the wife of Mayor Ronald P. McDougall, try to set up a meeting with village and town officials, Cambray Housing Corp. and United Helpers.

Cambray, which is managed by United Helpers, is an apartment complex primarily for senior citizens that is going to be torn down and replaced. Its rebirth is the perfect opportunity to see what kind of senior services might be available, she said.

“I’m not pushing anything at you but to start the dialogue,” Ms. Scozzafava said. “We have gaps in services in this community. I think we need to look at the overall picture. I think we have to see if we can’t come out with a better product. We as a community need to have this discussion and it’s very different from what we can do for you right now.”

Task force members also plan to talk with senior citizen groups and the St. Lawrence County Office for the Aging to see what kinds of services are needed.

Filling gaps in health care, to include skilled nursing, assisted living and home care, could take place with the right partners, Ms. Scozzafava said.

“I don’t think we know what we want yet,” she said. “I think we know what we’re missing right now.”

Kinney Nursing Home filed the closure plan with the state Dec. 27.

Ms. Faber issued a statement on behalf of the Kinney Nursing Home board that reviewed the nursing home’s financial difficulties.

“The payments Kinney Nursing Home receives for providing care are far below its operating costs, resulting in an average annual loss of more than $208,000 over the past 14 years,” the nursing home statement said. “This chronic shortage of funding means that we are no longer able to provide the amenities our residents and their families require and deserve and our ability to provide even minimum standards of medical care will erode.”

In keeping with the closure plan, the nursing home, with the assistance of United Helpers, is working with residents and their families to move them to appropriate placements. The timing is dependent on each resident’s medical condition and preferences and the availability of quarters.

Residents and family members will be provided with information about other nursing homes and placement options based on physical, medical and cognitive needs and asked to identify their top three choices. If placement within a resident’s top three choices cannot be arranged, other care will be identified.

Residents and family members with questions regarding the closure can call interim Administrator Todd R. Amo, 535-9319.

Some members of the task force thought they would have more time before the nursing home closed.

“A lot of untruths were told,” said Joan A. Eacker, whose 89-year-old mother, Frances Wells, is a resident of the nursing home. “She feels like her town is telling her to go. How do you answer that? Now it’s her last few years and I don’t want to see her hours away.”

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