The Bergen County Health Care Center in Rockleigh, a 110-bed nursing home, will close permanently at the end of this year, the county announced Friday.
Faced with the same trends that are pummeling private long-term care facilities, the county plans to consolidate its in-patient services at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus, County administrators stressed their efforts to ensure a smooth transition for residents and staff.
The Rockleigh center currently is less than half full, with 46 residents. It has not admitted any new residents since the COVID-19 pandemic began, a precautionary policy adopted to protect the health of its residents.
“With diminishing census but fixed overhead, operation of the facility has become less cost-effective,” an announcement from the county said. Prior to the pandemic, the number of residents had been declining for years due to the trend toward home- and community-based services for the elderly and disabled.
Other issues cited by the county were inadequate levels of reimbursement and the need for capital improvements that would disrupt operations for many months.
The long-term care industry, particularly its nonprofit sector, has been in crisis during the pandemic. Nursing home residents accounted for 40% of the COVID deaths in New Jersey. Reduced revenues combined with higher expenditures have increased financial pressures, leading experts to predict a wave of closures across the country.
Among the other senior-care facilities in North Jersey that have closed or announced plans to do so in the wake of the pandemic are the Armenian Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Emerson, the St. Francis Residential Community in Denville and the Villa at Florham Park.
State records show four residents of the Bergen County Health Care Center in Rockleigh died and 63 residents and 45 staff became infected in COVID outbreaks during the pandemic.
Residents and their families will have through Oct. 31 to decide whether to accept a transfer to the other county-owned long-term care facility, Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, or to make other arrangements. No additional costs would be incurred as a result of a transfer to Bergen New Bridge, information provided on the county’s website said.
County Administrator Tom Duch said officials were working to ensure “a seamless transition for Bergen County Health Care Center’s residents as we work to consolidate the County’s in-patient health care services.”
Consolidation of services at Bergen New Bridge will enable residents to have immediate access to acute care services, a need that became abundantly clear during the pandemic, the county said. Ambulance service, and even transportation to doctor’s appointments, often was difficult from Rockleigh’s remote location.
In addition, the residents will have easier access to pharmacy, diagnostic, hearing and dental services.
Bergen New Bridge is licensed for 574 long-term care beds, and currently has over 400 residents, a spokeswoman said.
“As the largest hospital and licensed nursing home in New Jersey, Bergen New Bridge has been closely coordinating with the County of Bergen, Bergen County Health Care Center, regulators and other stakeholders to ensure a seamless transition,” said spokeswoman Donnalee Corrieri. “Our medical center is pleased to be able to accommodate and welcome all long term residents and staff … who choose Bergen New Bridge, into our family.”
Efforts are also underway to accommodate the Rockleigh staff in positions with the county health department or at Bergen New Bridge, the county’s statement said. The center has 92 full-time employees, mostly on the nursing staff, but also including food-service, recreation and other workers.
The county has neither immediate nor long-term plans to sell the building or its 48-acre property, the statement said.
Lindy Washburn is a senior health care reporter for NorthJersey.com. To keep up-to-date about how changes in the medical world affect the health of you and your family, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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