Finger Lakes Health is asking the New York State Department of Health and the Office of Mental Health to allow the closure of the inpatient behavioral health unit at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital in Penn Yan because of declining use of the service.

Spokesperson Lara Turbide says the unit remains open and admitting patients during the review process, which was approved by the Finger Lakes Health Board in November, and announced to staff the following day.

Along with the unit in Penn Yan, the closure of the acute rehabilitation unit at Geneva General Hospital is being evaluated.

Turbide says the inpatient behavioral health unit, commonly referred to in the community as the “third floor” is averaging two patients per day, but still requires the minimum staffing. Combining the low use with declining reimbursement from insurance has prompted the hospital administration and board seek the closure.

She says the board looked at many years of data and determined that about 40 percent of the patients in the Penn Yan unit come from outside the area, noting that there are other behavioral health units operating at below capacity. “And we’re all paying for those minimum staffing levels,” she adds.

Whether or not the inpatient unit is closed, FLH plans to continue to offer outpatient mental health services through the John D. Kelly Center operated by Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital.

The Behavioral Health Unit at Soldiers & Sailors is certified to provide care to people with mental health diagnosis only and is not allowed to provide care to people who may have an additional diagnosis, such as substance abuse.

Turbide says the Acute Rehabilitation Unit at Geneva General Hospital, which provides intense rehabilitation for patients recovering from strokes, traumatic brain injuries, or other neurological issues. Changes in reimbursement criteria have resulted in the unit not providing care to post orthopedic surgical patients, who are now served in other units within the system.

She says the Acute Rehabilitation Unit has also been operating at low patient volumes while being required to provide full staffing for Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech Therapy. The board has asked the Department of Health to review the possible closure of this unit as well.

Turbide says the goal is to offer staff opportunities to stay employed in the health care system.