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Lutheran closing nursing home in Jamestown, citing occupancy and financial struggles

Buffalo News - 11/15/2023

Nov. 15—The nonprofit Lutheran Social Services of Upstate New York plans to close its 148-bed nursing home and subacute rehabilitation program in Jamestown, illustrating the dire financial situation facing many operators of skilled nursing facilities.

Lutheran said the closure of Lutheran Retirement Home will affect 49 residents and 106 staff positions. The shutdown, already filed with the state Health Department, is expected to occur Jan. 2, though it could come sooner depending on when the facility's last resident is discharged.

Lutheran stressed the closure does not affect current housing or care at its Hultquist Place Assisted Living or Edgewood Communities, an independent senior housing community.

"Lutheran is currently working with the New York State Department of Health to ensure that this transition is as smooth as possible," Lutheran President and CEO Tom Holt said Wednesday. "Our top priority is to work with every resident, their families and our valued employees, to secure new housing options, care and job placement."

Lutheran said it has been analyzing data trends for all senior living programs in Chautauqua County since 2019, an examination that has revealed the number of skilled nursing beds exceeding the number of residents. Meanwhile, finances have been pinched, with stagnant Medicaid reimbursement rates, a shrinking workforce and growing incentives to have elders receive in-home care.

Skilled nursing facilities in Chautauqua County are running at an average of 65% occupancy, Lutheran said. The optimum occupancy rate to maintain financial viability is around 90% to 95% — a rate that Lutheran said its nursing home was operating at four years ago.

"We know this decision is coming as a surprise to many, but we are dealing with harsh industry realities," Holt added.

"Hard decisions have to be made to keep the other countywide facilities viable financially. There just aren't enough people, both residents and staff, to keep all the facilities open, providing optimum levels of care," he said. "We can't be three years down the road, not paying our bills and be financially insoluble where it negatively impacts the other programs under the Lutheran senior housing umbrella."

The Lutheran nursing home has an overall rating of four out of five stars, or above average, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. It scored a five out of five in health inspections and a four out of five on quality measures, though it had a staffing rating of just one star out of five.

It recorded five total citations from the state Health Department from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2023, better than the statewide average of 22 citations during that time period.

Moving forward, Lutheran said in-person meetings with residents and families will be scheduled to explain the closure process and to provide guidance as the operator works to help transition nursing home residents to other facilities. Lutheran also said it will assist its affected employees with placement at nearby facilities, reaching out to local employers and holding on-site job fairs.

Lutheran said the future of the building and property has not yet been determined.

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