Final days for the village ER before patients referred elsewhere
By James M. Odato
Lake Placid will lose its emergency medical services in three weeks, Adirondack Health said on Monday.
The Saranac Lake-based hospital system said it received the state’s permission on Friday. It had sought the closure last fall because of sparse use of the Lake Placid facility and losses associated with running it, even as a part-time emergency department.
The permanent closure is set for 8 p.m. Aug. 20.
Last October, the company said the Lake Placid ER needed to close and revealed it had applied for the New York Department of Health’s authorization to do so, driving reactions and concerns that people in the Essex County region would have to travel to the Saranac Lake ER for services.
After the nine-month review, the state not only approved shutting the ER, but granted Adirondack Health the right to close its dental clinic in Lake Placid. The company had suspended the clinic’s operations in June, citing “staffing constraints.”
Art Devlin, Lake Placid’s mayor, took the news in stride, saying he has been prepared for these developments. He added that he anticipates that Hudson Headwaters, the nonprofit system of community health centers based in Queensbury, will petition for state approval to open physician services at the site of the Lake Placid ER. A spokeswoman for Hudson Headwaters, Pamela Fisher, said an application to set up primary care is pending.
“As a nonprofit and Federally Qualified Health Center, Hudson Headwaters’ mission is to ensure access to high-quality health care, regardless of a patient’s income or insurance status,” Fisher said. Her company determined the region has a growing demand for primary care.
Adirondack Health’s administration found it necessary to consolidate to save the overall medical system. “It’s difficult to reduce or eliminate service lines,” said Aaron Kramer, Adirondack Health’s president and CEO. “We appreciated the community’s understanding and unwavering support.”
In a press release Monday, Kramer’s communications office said that the 40,000 square-foot Lake Placid Health and Medical Fitness Center, which has included 3,200 square feet for the ER, will be “repurposed.” But the office added that all other physical therapy and rehabilitation, medical fitness, primary care, laboratory, medical imaging, and the Lake Placid Sports Medicine orthopaedic surgical practice will continue uninterrupted in the building.
The closure of the part-time emergency department will not result in the elimination of any jobs at Adirondack Health, Adirondack Health said. All employees will have the opportunity to work at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, or in outpatient departments across the health system.
The company has declined to answer questions from the Explorer since October, and did not take inquiries on Monday.
It has said that with little use of the Lake Placid facility and rising losses throughout the company, it needed to consolidate ER services in Saranac Lake. Adirondack Health lost more than $14 million in the 2022 fiscal year, according to finalized financial statements, the company said. Devlin said he has been told the number rose to $15.5 million.
“It would be nice if we could keep our emergency room,” Devlin said. “Don’t’ want to bring down the whole hospital.”
He said it takes 10 minutes to get to Saranac Lake from his village but the closure will have repercussions on the ambulance and police services in Lake Placid because of the trips to the neighboring village.
He said Hudson Headwaters’ move to install general practitioners in the vacated Adirondack Health ER space may help ease the loss because doctors would be able to handle some emergency tasks, such as stitching wounds.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a photograph and to include Hudson Healthwaters’ confirmation that it is seeking approval to go into the Lake Placid space on Old Military Road and to identify the nonprofit company as being a system of community health centers based in Queensbury.