GLENS FALLS — Nurses at Glens Falls Hospital were stunned to learn last week that the Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit is closing.
The unit doesn’t have enough patients to be financially viable, according to hospital officials. On average, the unit has five patients at a time. The unit is on one floor of the hospital.
It has 15 nurses, all but one of whom are full-time, and a team of at least seven therapists. They provide three to four hours of therapy a day to severely ill patients who are usually recovering from strokes, heart problems or brain damage.
With the unit closing, patients will have to go to Albany Medical Center Hospital for acute rehab. They will live there, but it could add up to two hours of driving each way for family members who want to visit.
The hospital did not make a public announcement about the closure, but when asked by a reporter, issued a statement.
“Glens Falls Hospital has decided to close the Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, located on (the floor) 3 East on the main hospital campus. With an average census of approximately 5 patients, unfortunately, it is no longer financially viable to continue to provide care on this specialized unit as insurers drive patients towards less expensive settings for most acute rehabilitation including skilled nursing and home care,” the statement says.
Nurses are distraught about the situation.
“This is a huge deal. This is a disservice to the people — the closest acute rehab now is Albany Med,” said one nurse, who asked to speak anonymously to avoid being penalized by the hospital for speaking to the press without authorization.
She described the care the nurses and therapists give to ill patients.
“We had a young lady that had brain surgery. She came in not talking, not walking,” the nurse said. “She left our hospital four weeks later and walked out. That’s what our unit does for these patients.”
She credited the work of nurses and therapists, working as a team on each patient.
“Giving them three to four hours of rehab a day, which helps transform these people so much quicker than when they go to subacute and get maybe 30 minutes,” the nurse said.
Nurses said the last patient will be admitted Dec. 1. The floor will remain open until that patient leaves — but as patients become fewer and fewer, nurses will be sent home without pay because they aren’t needed, a nurse said.
“What happens is, when your floor doesn’t need you and census is low for the hospital, so you aren’t needed on another floor, they call you off,” the nurse said. “If you have time, you can use it. I don’t have any time, so I don’t get paid.”
Nurses will get severance packages if they stay until the official close of the floor, likely in mid-January. But that means they may have to go weeks with intermittent pay.
It’s a nerve-wracking situation, the nurse said.
The nurses also aren’t being offered jobs elsewhere in the hospital. There are currently two openings for “med surge” nurses, the type of nursing that would apply for these nurses. But with 15 nurses looking for work, that won’t be enough. There are also a couple of openings in obstetrics and psychiatry, but the nurses aren’t confident about their chances to get those jobs.
“We have to apply for the jobs like everyone else,” a nurse said. “If someone has experience in OB, why would they choose me?”
Hospital officials emphasized that they will still provide other rehab services for patients, as well as outpatient rehab at a variety of locations.