Inside Essex Center

ELIZABETHTOWN – From the street, it may not look like much has happened to the building formerly known as the Horace Nye Nursing Home. Even the sign out front has yet to be taken down and replaced, still reading “Horace Nye Home.” Inside, however, the new ownership is already making big changes.

It’s been about two months since the nursing home switched ownership and management from Essex County to the now privately run Essex Center, owned by Centers for Specialty Care, a company headquartered in the Bronx. Bruce Gendron, the company’s regional administrator, and Deborah Giffords, the administrator of Essex Center, gave the Enterprise an inside look at what’s new.

“Usually when we acquire a facility, they don’t have the capital it takes to reinvest into the home,” Gendron said. “That’s just the nature of today, counties struggling for funds.”

Centers for Specialty Care plans to invest that capital into the former county home established in 1832, Gendron said.

The current top priorities for the company are to expand rehabilitation services, to set up an electronic record-keeping system and to improve the “no wander” security system for patients, Gendron said.

By far, the biggest change planned is the reorganization of the building and staff for a larger rehabilitation program, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

“We had (rehabilitation) in the past, but we didn’t have the intensity and the number of staff,” Giffords said.

Gendron said the rehabilitation program will soon occupy approximately 25 to 35 percent of the building’s bed space, after renovations are completed.

“What’s happening in this industry is hospitals need to get people out more quickly,” Gendron said. “They go to the hospital, then come here, and they have a 30- to 60-day rehabilitation here.”

The physical therapy room will be relocated to a much larger space at the current activities room. The need for more space is due to the added equipment the company will bring in like elliptical machines, balance machines, treadmills and mat tables, Gendron said. These renovations will have to be approved by the state Department of Health before they can be completed.

“It’s months down the road before we can do any work (on renovations),” Gendron said.

Unit 3 of the building will be designated to house rehab patients. There are three units in the nursing home. Unit 1 and Unit 2 were originally built around 1968, and Unit 3 was part of an addition added on 10 years later. Units 1 and 2 have about 60 beds for patients, and Unit 3 has 40 beds, Giffords said. There are currently 12 rehabilitation beds in Unit 3, and the goal is to have 25. Beds will open up naturally through attrition, Gendron said. (Editor’s note: Due to a misunderstanding, a previous version of this story incorrectly said the Essex Center was moving residents of Unit 3 to other nursing homes. The Enterprise regrets the error.)

The company also supplied the nursing home with a new van to transport rehabilitation patients.

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Electronic record keeping

Switching to electronic medical records is another top priority.

“Everything here was paper based,” Gendron said. “We are now rolling out electronic medical records to all our new facilities. We want to make sure we are using the best practices in the industry.”

The company has installed several Wi-fi towers over the past couple weeks and will finish soon. Later this month a shipment of laptops will be delivered. They will be used by the nurses on their medical carts, replacing handwritten records.

“I have not spoken to a single LPN who has not been delighted,” Gendron said. “It gives them a system, and it really helps them keep track of things.”

Security

Magnetic locks will be installed on the doors of the building, and at-risk residents will be given bracelets to monitor their location, in order to safeguard against them wandering away.

“It’s a big concern for nurses, having a patient, like with Alzheimer’s, wander from the building,” Gendron said. “It will lock the door on a resident if they try to walk out that door. It will also allow administration to find that person.”

An administrator like Giffords would have the ability to use the technology. It would only be used to track residents if they go missing, Gendron said.

Transition

When the company took over the nursing home, it kept on all but a handful of the 135 former county employees. Giffords said since then they have hired five to six new employees.

Centers for Specialty Care owns nursing homes in 16 counties in New York. The Essex Center is the farthest one north, but it’s not the newest. More recently the company purchased a nursing home in Albany County, Gendron said.

Essex County sold the nursing home after it faced millions in yearly reoccurring deficits. The company hopes to put behind them a sale that was at times contentious with some some in the community and some town supervisors.

“Some communities, you find they are resigned to the fact it’s a needed change, and in some communities there is more resistance,” Gendron said.

“We are continuing to try to move forward with a positive outlook,” Giffords said.