Harlan's Appalachian Regional Hospital has announced plans to close one of its units this summer, due primarily to Medicare and Medicaid cuts.
The skilled nursing unit will close on July 1 after serving Harlan County for 30 years.
The unit houses patients who reach a point in their recovery in which they don't necessarily need to be hospitalized but aren't physically capable to care for themselves at home. The skilled nursing unit involves physicians, nurses, social services, pharmacy services and therapists to develop treatment plans for each patient.
"Small rural hospitals across the country are struggling to keep their doors open and are having to make difficult decisions in order to maintain their economic viability and continue to provide care to our communities. Unfortunately, Harlan ARH Hospital is no exception ..." Harlan ARH Community CEO Michael Layfield said.
The hospital staff has held meetings with family members of the small group of patients who currently reside in the skilled care unit and will work closely with them to determine the best possible site for relocation, Layfield said.
The hospital hopes to find alternate housing for patients at area nursing homes or other skilled care facilities by July 1 and will help to determine the best location based on each patient's physical limitations and medical needs, he said.
"... This decision has been very difficult for us. The residents and staff of our skilled nursing facility are very important to us," Layfield said. "Harlan ARH Hospital has provided excellent care to senior members of the Harlan community through the skilled nursing unit for the past 30 years, and we deeply regret having to close the unit.
"The commitment and dedication to providing quality care for the residents and our patients during this transition will not change."
Layfield said the decision to close the unit would strengthen Harlan ARH Hospital's ability to sustain existing services such as acute in-patient care, emergency and outpatient care. He said the closure is due to economic pressures brought on by cuts in reimbursement payments for skilled care services that the hospital can no longer financially withstand.
"We can take what resources that we have and focus on expanding our services and investing in the future of our community," he said.