GENEVA — Finger Lakes Health officials say they’ve begun the process of closing the Acute Rehabilitation Unit Inpatient at Geneva General Hospital and the Behavioral Health Services program at Soldiers & Sailors Hospital in Penn Yan.

Health system spokeswoman Lara Turbide said Wednesday that the board of directors at Finger Lakes Health made the decision to close the units in November, notifying affected employees within a day of the decision.

The first step in the process, Turbide said, is notifying state regulatory agencies that it would like to discontinue those services.

Turbide said she could not provide a time-table on when the closures would happen, assuming they are approved by the state.

She said the programs were no longer sustainable.

“As with any service changes, significant consideration is given to community need, volumes, and financial viability,” Turbide said.

“There has been a declining volume for both services,” she said, adding that for the mental health unit, there are minimum staffing levels needed to run the program, regardless of patient numbers.

“We’ve been sustaining losses for many years” at both sites, she said.

Turbide said the closure of the Behavioral Health Services program at Soldiers and Sailors had nothing to do with the case of Paul Khouzam, who had been released in August from the unit after being taken there by Yates County sheriff’s deputies because he was considered a possible a danger to himself or others. Khouzam was released from the hospital and later attacked his mother with a hammer at the home they shared. She died from her injuries in October, and the assault charges against him were upgraded to murder after his mother’s death.

Turbide cited low patient volumes and “reimbursement challenges” at both the rehab and mental health units as major factors in the decision to close the facilities.

Those “reimbursement challenges” involve both public and private insurers, she said, including what services insurers are willing to pay for.

Additionally, said Turbide, there are local alternatives to both services, pointing to rehabilitation care at Finger Lakes Health Living Center South on the Geneva campus, where there is a short-term rehab program. At Soldiers & Sailors, there is a rehabilitation service called the Swing Bed program.

As for behavioral health services, Turbide points to inpatient behavioral health units at Clifton Springs, Newark and other hospitals.

And she noted that Finger Lakes Health will continue to offer outpatient behavioral health services at the John D. Kelly Center in Penn Yan that is operated by Soldiers & Sailors.

Right now, Finger Lakes Health is trying to find positions for those affected by the planned closures, she said.

“Whenever possible, we’d like to retain the staff,” she said.

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