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The Finger Lakes Center for Living, a nursing home owned and operated by Auburn Community Hospital, could be relocated to the former Cayuga County Nursing Home in Sennett.

Jason Lesch, chief financial officer of ACH, said the potential move is part of the hospital's larger plan to restructure its main campus on Lansing Street in Auburn. Goals include creating a 10-bed alcohol and drug rehabilitation center, establishing a more centralized office location for doctors and specialists, and increasing space availability for the nursing home itself.

While that's the overall strategy, there's still many steps for ACH and the county before any of these things can happen. Cayuga County legislators will vote Tuesday night on a resolution requesting the state to pass legislation that would allow the county to approve sale or lease of the former nursing home at 7451 County House Road to the hospital.

ACH also submitted a certificate of need application to the state Department of Health on March 17, explaining that relocating the nursing home to the county's building would double the number of private rooms from eight to 16. It would also provide more necessary space for residents undergoing occupational and physical therapy, which the hospital said can at times be crowded in its current location. In its application to the state, ACH also points out that the Sennett facility "is in a rural area providing beautiful surroundings for the residents and there is room for expansion if ever needed."

"We're kind of just trying to line this up to be able to do it," Lesch said. "The goal is to have a win-win for the county and the hospital and the community."

The former Cayuga County Nursing Home building has been vacant for about two years following the merger between the county's facility and Mercy Health & Rehabilitation Center. Mercy, located in Auburn, was renovated and renamed The Commons on St. Anthony, and the final Cayuga County Nursing Home residents moved there in 2015.

Lesch said while the county has done a great job of keeping up the Sennett building in the interim, the projected cost of relocating the Center for Living and upgrading the building to new state standards is about $4.6 million. Lesch said ACH applied for $3.5 million in October through the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program, and he hopes to know whether the hospital will be awarded those monies once the state budget is passed. If it's not awarded those funds, the hospital's request would go into the following year's budget. The timeline for the potential move and renovations is uncertain, though Lesch said nothing would be done immediately.

Besides upgraded space for the nursing home, the relocation would allow for a new drug rehabilitation center in Auburn. Lesch said the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services identified the current nursing home facility at 20 Park Ave., Auburn, as the best place for such a center because it has an entrance separate from the main hospital on Lansing Street. It would also be more cost-effective to renovate, he added. Converting the space into a drug rehab program would cost up to $1,500,000, according to ACH's grant application.

ACH also has plans to move some of its doctors' offices to the Auburn campus in order to bring specialists closer to the hospital. According to the hospital's grant application to the state, only one doctor is located on campus. With approximately 10 offices scattered throughout the county, Lesch said bringing more people under one roof would cut down on the hospital's rental costs. 

"The win is moving our doctors on campus," Lesch said. "That's where the win is. It wouldn't be all of our doctors. It would be the specialists that make sense. You have a specialist who can walk into the emergency room. Now you have, say, neurology 10 seconds away."

Legislators will vote on whether to move forward on negotiations with the hospital at the full Legislature meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 28 in the Sixth Floor Chambers of the Cayuga County Office Building, 160 Genesee St., Auburn.

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.


County Government Reporter