The Lutheran Augustana Center will officially shut its doors no later than June 30 of this year, according to representatives of NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, who discussed the nursing home’s impending closure at a meeting held by Community Board 7 on Tuesday, February 13 at the hospital, 150 55th Street.
The turnout for the meeting was low, but there was plenty of information given as to why the nursing home will close, what it means for patients and employees, and why staff, patients and families were notified so late.
Executive Hospital Director and Senior Vice President Dr. Bret Rudy said that the reason for shutting the nursing home was to use the space to expand the hospital, “building the infrastructure to be able to provide the highest quality healthcare in the borough.
“Our goal here and the goal of Family Health Centers [at NYU Langone] is to improve the health of the community,” he explained. “Part of that is understanding how to measure how individuals get better. With all of this, we obviously want a bigger hospital. We aren’t looking to expand the number of beds. We really are looking at putting as much in the outpatient setting as possible. That said, we need to have a modern facility and our goal is to have single patient rooms for everyone. If you’ve ever been in a hospital, sharing a room is a challenge for the patient and visitors, because of the lack of privacy. There’s not a lot of space in the room.”
To make space for single rooms, as well as technological and cancer centers, the decision was made to shutter the venerable nursing home.
“We need to have things close for impatient care,” Rudy added. “We can’t have two buildings. We knew we needed new ambulatory space close to here and we needed a new hospital tower to get to that goal of having single patient rooms.” Taking the space currently occupied by the nursing home, he explained, “would allow us to have connectivity to the main building and to build what we call superblocks, which means a combination of ambulatory care and inpatient care.”
The process of closing the nursing home began June of last year when the NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn Legacy Board authorized it. During August, the Augustana board approved the submission of the closure plan to the New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH), which approved it on December 5.
However, some attendees were upset that they were told only at the end of the year.
“Those of us who have family members here,” said Sunset Park resident Marion Palm, “are worried about having to visit relatives in the Bronx or somewhere else because we don’t know what’s happening and we don’t know why it’s closing.”
Vice President of Senior Care, Home Care, Neurology and Rehabilitation Jeanne Lee explained that NYCDOH regulations prevented the information from being revealed sooner.
“We were not allowed to share any information about the closure plan or the fact that we submitted a closure plan to the DOH until they provided approval of the plan,” said Lee. “So there was a period of time where we were not able to say. That’s their regulations.”
“We took this to the highest level of the DOH and said this seems unfair to patients and families and staff,” added Rudy, adding that DOH refused to yield on it. “This is not how we would’ve managed this.”
However, he added, “Once we received approval of the closure plan, the staff had meetings with patients and families immediately. Social workers have been assigned to work with each family and each resident to identify the nursing homes of choice for them.”
“We sent out notifications to families and residents,” Lee added. “On the same day, we had face-to-face meetings with family members who were available. We are also following up with nursing homes and services workers to ensure a good transition.”
So far, the nursing home has discharged 127 patients, representing 85 percent of its population. There are 23 patients remaining at the facility.
Employees were also helped, given opportunities to attend workshops and job fairs, according to hospital representatives. Currently, over 100 workers are interviewing for other positions within NYU-Langone, they said.