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Lakeland Announces Closure of Berrien Facilities

(ST. JOSEPH) –  The Lakeland HealthCare Board of Directors has approved a recommendation to discontinue operations at Lakeland Specialty Hospital, Berrien Center, effective June 1, 2014.

“The decision to close Berrien Center was a difficult and deliberate one, made after several months of very intensive analysis, with the help of two external consultants,” said Loren B. Hamel, MD, President & CEO, Lakeland HealthCare.  “Talented and compassionate caregivers and support staff have helped so many residents feel safe and cared for over the years.  The Board and Administration are deeply concerned about the impact on residents, associates, and the community and considered all issues related to making this decision.”

The Lakeland Board of Directors considered access, and consulted with Administrators of other skilled nursing facilities in the area.  The trend in healthcare is to design more home-based care options and to place less people in long-term care.

“Our aging Berrien facility, although it has served thousands of patients for more than one hundred years, no longer represents the healing environment that Lakeland is committed to providing to those we serve, with its three- and four-bed wards,” continued Dr. Hamel.  “To repair or replace the building would have required a significant investment.  Berrien’s remote location is not as convenient to the families of most residents as other area options.”

After Berrien’s closure, according to outside consultants who objectively and inclusively evaluated the subject, there will remain an excess capacity of long-term care beds in the county and more available beds than needed. 

“As caretakers of a community-owned healthcare organization, we need to ensure that we operate at the highest level of fiscal responsibility and carefully calibrate the use of our financial resources to benefit the most individuals in the most substantial way, especially in light of the ever-changing landscape of healthcare,” said Dr. Hamel.   “We will be asked to continue to provide high-value healthcare, and more of it, at a lower cost.  We continually examine the best way to invest our resources to benefit and serve our community.   This will necessitate some adjustments in what we can do, and what we should do, especially if similar services are available elsewhere in the region.”

There are currently about 70 residents at Lakeland Continuing Care and less than 15 patients in Long-Term Acute Care at Berrien. Lakeland care management team members are working closely with long-term care residents and their families on individual transition plans to locate new homes.  Some residents may move to Lakeland’s new Pine Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Lincoln Township.  Admissions to the Long-Term Acute Care (LTACH) unit will continue through mid-April. 

Lakeland Specialty Hospital, Berrien Center began as a farm for persons without means around 1832. Throughout the decades it has existed as a county infirmary, a full-service acute care hospital, a mental health facility, and a long-term care facility.  It became part of the Lakeland system in 1994.

Lakeland caregivers are in the process of contacting family members of residents.  Community members with family at Lakeland Specialty Hospital, Berrien Center should contact Cali Gregory, Administrator, at (269) 473-3097 with questions.

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