PBMC will close its skilled nursing facility on or about Dec. 22, hospital administrators told residents and family members today. Photo: Alek Lewis

Peconic Bay Medical Center is closing its skilled nursing facility before the end of the year.

Hospital administrators advised residents and family members at a meeting this morning at the facility.

The 60-bed skilled nursing facility, which opened in 1985, will close “on or about” Dec. 22, PBMC Executive Director Amy Loeb said.

The Acadia Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Riverhead has committed to accepting all 12 of the facility’s current long-term residents, Loeb said, noting that residents and their families can choose any facility they prefer and PBMC will assist them in relocating.

The reason for the closure is “to reallocate clinical space,” Loeb said.

“The hospital has been expanding dramatically in terms of services and programs that we offer in the community, she said. “It’s always been need-based on what’s needed for the community. So, heart attack care, stroke care, trauma care — the number of traumas that we take care of since 2018 has doubled, and the same for others,” Loeb said. “The growth has been really exceptional and we’re thrilled that we’re meeting the needs of the community in that way. We need to make sure that we have the space and resources in order to continue to keep up with that growth.”

The number of residents in the skilled nursing facility has been shrinking over the past couple of years, Loeb said.

“The pandemic was very difficult for skilled nursing facilities, and I have to say I’m extraordinarily proud of the care that our skilled nursing facility has provided for years — throughout the pandemic and since the pandemic. We have amazing team members there,” she said.

The closure will displace the facility’s 40 full-time and part-time workers, Loeb said. She said the hospital has already reassigned about half that number to other units in the hospital. The hospital will work to find positions for the remaining employees either at PBMC or at another Northwell facility, Loeb said.

“This was a very, very, very difficult decision,” she said.

“It’s the residents’ home and we fully appreciate and understand what that means,” Loeb said. “For these individuals, it’s very, very tough. But as we continue to grow and be able to offer life saving services that no one else can provide in this community. That’s, that’s the reason behind it. We need to continue to do that,” she said.

There is a lot of bed availability in skilled nursing facilities in the community, Loeb said. But PBMC is the only hospital.

“So we we need to grow to provide the services that only we can provide and allow those other facilities in the community to provide the care that they can provide.” Loeb said.

PBMC filed its closure plan with the State Department of Health in late September and received approval late last week, Loeb said.

Hospital administration called family members yesterday to invite them to a meeting at the skilled nursing facility this morning. State Health Department staff were in attendance. Only two family members were present and they were both very unhappy with the decision, with the timing of the closing, and with the short notice provided for this morning’s meeting.

Diane Fitzgerald, whose mother has been a resident there since April, said the amount of notice given for the meeting today was “ridiculous.” She had a call from a social worker at 2:15 yesterday afternoon, she said. Fortunately, she said, she was able to attend.

Loeb said the hospital was prohibited from making any announcement of the closing until it had state approval of the closure plan. Once notified of the approval, she said, administrators want to meet with residents and family members as soon as possible because rumors were circulating in the community.

She said the facility would be meeting with patients and family members individually to answer questions and assist with transitions to other nursing facilities.

Fitzgerald heard about the closing before today’s meeting from a friend who recently had orthopedic surgery. Her friend’s surgeon was complaining about it, Fitzgerald said.

Loeb said the need for inpatient rehab after orthopedic surgery, including joint replacement “has changed dramatically,” she said.

“Five or 10 years ago, individuals who had a joint replacement would come in, get the joint replacement, stay in the hospital for three days and then go to rehab here in the facility. That has changed,” Loeb said. “Medicare and other payers — and really, this is a trend across the country — have really been driving towards patients going home. So now patients have a joint replacement, they go home the next day or perhaps the day after, but they are they are going home. So that is very, very different.”

Fitzgerald said long-term care options locally are few and, in her opinion, not satisfactory. She’s determined to rally the community to try to change the minds of hospital administrators about closing the facility. Its closure will have a negative effect across the entire East End, she said.

Fitzgerald is circulating a petition against the closure and has also posted the petition on the Change.org website.

Loeb said the hospital is still evaluating how to best make use of the 20,000-square-foot space presently occupied by the skilled nursing facility.

“It will be, without question, acute care, but we have to still go through the process of gaining approval from the state,” Loeb said. “We do have to submit these licensed beds, because they are skilled nursing facility [beds], back to the state. So, we need to do an evaluation of the space and understand what it will take to convert it,” she said. “But we are continuously needing to grow acute medical-surgical beds. And as you know, women’s health is a big priority for us. So, we still have work to do, and we still have to work with the state, but we need to continue to grow those two services.”

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