NANTICOKE — A deal between Commonwealth Health and a Camp Hill company to manage its post-acute care services at two local hospitals will leave the Special Care Hospital building vacant this fall for the first time in more than a century.
Post Acute Medical LLC, a provider of post-acute care at more than 20 hospitals and facilities nationwide, wanted to expand its footprint in its home state and eyed Northeastern Pennsylvania as a place to start.
But rather than operating in the facility on South Washington Street that opened as a state hospital in 1909, it opted to use space inside Wilkes-Barre General Hospital and the Regional Hospital in Scranton.
Anne Leon, a spokeswoman for Post Acute Medical, said the company sees this market as a good place to do business. Being located inside existing hospitals presents a good opportunity for itself and its patients, she said.
The company signed an agreement to lease the seventh floor of Wilkes-Barre General starting in mid-September.
Though the number of employees it will need hasn’t been determined, it’s likely that the dozens at Kindred Hospital Wyoming Valley who currently work on that floor will be viewed as potential Post Acute employees.
“Sure. They’re doing it. They’ve been doing it for 12 years,” Leon said of Kindred staffers.
Kindred Healthcare has operated the hospital within a hospital on the seventh floor of Wilkes-Barre General Hospital since 2002. The company did not renew its contract with Wilkes-Barre General for the 36-bed long-term acute care facility and will exit on or before Sept. 16. Post Acute will move right in.
Continuing to have an outside company providing post acute care was something Commonwealth Health, Wilkes-Barre General’s parent company, viewed as the best option.
Annmarie Poslock, a Commonwealth Health spokeswoman, issued a statement confirming the Post Acute Medical agreement: “Selling LTAC (long-term acute care) operations to a single specialty organization would support quality of care for patients and keep the system’s resources focused on other hospital services. As we developed our strategy and contemplated this transaction, we had discussions with multiple LTAC service companies, including Kindred.”
She said Post Acute Medical “will continue to operate within these hospitals as independent providers and offer services to patients who require additional resources for recovery.”
Leon said Post Acute Medical operates the bulk of its facilities in Texas with additional ones in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Oklahoma, but “we were looking to start growing in Pennsylvania.” And having a facility inside Wilkes-Barre General, as Kindred learned, just made sense.
“There’s access to diagnostic equipment, facilities, physicians. … You can serve your patients much better,” Leon said.
Part of the company’s agreement with Commonwealth Health was to retain as many of the company’s employees working in its Special Care Hospital in Nanticoke.
Post Acute Medical will operate long-term acute care units at Regional Hospital of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, and inpatient operations at Special Care Hospital will end. The units will function as independent providers located within the hospitals, which will help in patient transitions between levels.
With just two units — Wilkes-Barre General Hospital and Regional Hospital of Scranton — there will be sufficient beds to accommodate long-term acute care patients in the region based on patient volumes of the past four years, Poslock said.
The land and building occupied by Special Care Hospital are owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Poslock said.
Troy Thompson, a Pennsylvania Department of General Services spokesman, said the news came unexpectedly and since the state considers that building “surplus property” it will entertain purchase offers.
When Commonwealth Health, a for-profit company, purchased the Special Care Hospital from a non-profit company, the Pennsylvania Department of General Services negotiated a four-year lease for $2,000 per month, with a $500,000 option to buy. The lease expires in June 2014 on the 81,839-square-foot building situated on 3.9 acres.