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Clough Center To Close



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, June 16, 2016

New London — The Board of Trustees at New London Hospital voted unanimously on Thursday to close the William P. Clough Extended Care Center by Oct. 1, giving hospital officials 3½ months to find alternative arrangements for the 31 residents still living at the nursing home.

The Valley News reported last month that the trustees were expected to act on the issue at Thursday’s meeting, following 18 months of work by a hospital committee assessing the future of the 45-year-old nursing home, which New London Hospital officials said loses $1 million annually.

About 35 staff members employed by the 58-bed facility, which is licensed for both long-term care and skilled nursing, are expected to be impacted by the closing, and hospital officials said they are looking to help them find new jobs, either within the hospital, the affiliated Dartmouth-Hitchcock system, or with private nursing homes that may take some of the residents.

New London Hospital President and CEO Bruce King said the closing of the nursing home follows similar actions taken in recent years by Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, Mount Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor, and a hospital in Exeter, N.H.

“Basically, the long-term care reimbursement from the state of New Hampshire for Medicaid patients, which is the vast majority of our patients, does not cover the cost of the care,” King said. “We’ve tried to be transparent that it is not sustainable for an institution to be losing $1 million a year from operations in providing long-term care.”

The Clough Center is embedded into the hospital itself, occupying much of the second level of the four-level hospital building. The nursing home opened in 1971, and hospital officials also have said that besides losing money, the space needs capital upgrades, such as HVAC improvements and new windows.

The Clough Center has stopped taking patients, and King said he believes current residents will be able to find new homes in other nursing homes within the Concord-Sunapee region, such as Woodlawn in Newport, Genesis-run facilities in Franklin, Concord and Lebanon; the Sullivan County nursing home in Unity; and the Merrimack County nursing home in Boscawen.

“I am very confident, we’re talking about a three-month window ... that we will find alternatives,” King said.

In addition to looking to fill job vacancies at New London Hospital, King said officials are talking to some of the nursing homes about employment options for some of the Clough workers, who range from dietary workers and housekeepers to licensed nursing assistants.

“Our hope is to be able to retain and retrain as many as possible,” he said.

King said the decision was not mandated by Dartmouth-Hitchcock officials, who hold one-third of the Board of Trustee seats, but that D-H was helpful in “exploring the options.”

“These are decisions that have to be made at a local community level,” King said. “We felt supported that Dartmouth helped us think this through.”

King said New London Hospital is “viewed as a very vibrant medical surgery facility for primary and secondary-care procedures” providing services that “don’t need to happen at an academic medical center,” such as knee replacements, general surgery and treating ear, nose and throat cases.

“D-H views us as the medical surgical ‘popup valve,’ ” said King, who has been at New London for 13 years but is technically a D-H employee under a management services agreement.

New London Hospital has 25 critical access care beds and about 600 employees. King said there also is some value to the licenses for the nursing home beds themselves, because of a moratorium on creating new long-term care beds, and that the licenses can be transferred to another facility within Merrimack County.

King said there are no plans in place for how the Clough Center space will be used in the future.

“We certainly have expansion needs from the clinical and medical (services) of the hospital, but there is no master plan I’m pulling out and saying, ‘Here is what we are repurposing,’ ” he said.

State Rep David Kidder, a New London Republican, said he thinks hospital officials had little choice but to close Clough, given the insufficient Medicaid reimbursement rates.

“Lord knows it’s been a fabulous thing for a long time,” Kidder said of Clough, “but in the world we live in today, economically it just doesn’t make sense.”

At the same time, Kidder also said he was apprehensive whether all the Clough residents will have an easy transition to new homes.

“Most of these people are people in need, and we’ve tried to keep people in their homes and that stuff, which is great, but not everybody can be there,” he said. “This is a tough one.”

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.