LAKE PLACID - Town and village officials don't appear to have any control over what Adirondack Health plans to do with its Lake Placid hospital once it's closed, but they'd like to see it continue to benefit their residents.
"Ideally I'd love to see it go back to the community," North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said Monday. "It's been a part of the community for so long, we'd like to see it continue as part of the community."
Last week, Adirondack Health announced plans to consolidate its Lake Placid operations onto the 13-acre Uihlein Living Center property, which is currently home to a 120-bed nursing home, over the next two years. The services provided at its Adirondack Medical Center-Lake Placid hospital, which is located on Church Street, would move to either existing space or a yet-to-be-built structure on the Uihlein property.
Adirondack Health plans to close its Lake Placid hospital on Church Street, seen here Friday, and move its services to the campus of Uihlein Living Center, located off Old Military Road.
(Photo for the Enterprise — Rich Rosentreter)
That's just one part of a major overhaul of Adirondack Health's Lake Placid sites. The organization also plans to cut a $1 million annual loss by reducing the number of beds at the nursing home from 120 to 60, and building assisted living, senior housing and medical fitness facilities on the Uihlein campus.
Technically, Adirondack Health must continue providing hospital services to the community after it closes AMC-Lake Placid, or it would have to sell the former Placid Memorial Hospital to the town of North Elba, according to the terms of a 1990 agreement signed by then-town Supervisor Matthew Clark and then-hospital board Chairman John J. McKenna.
The agreement, a copy of which Politi provided to the Enterprise, was enacted at the time Placid Memorial merged with the General Hospital of Saranac Lake to form Adirondack Medical Center. It was designed to ensure the medical needs of Lake Placid's residents and visitors continue to be met should AMC ever abandon, close or sell the hospital. The agreement says the town has "exclusive right to buy the property" and its facilities for $10, but only if Placid Memorial, or its successor, no longer continues to provide round-the-clock emergency medical and primary health care services for the community.
Since Adirondack Health plans to continue providing hospital services to the Lake Placid community, just in a different location, the agreement appears to be moot, Politi acknowledged.
"All the services that we currently provide at the Lake Placid hospital will be provided at the Uihlein campus," said Adirondack Health spokesman Joe Riccio, adding that hospital officials are aware of the agreement.
Adirondack Health plans to close the hospital, which was built in the early 1950s, because it's not configured to provide modern medicine. Chandler Ralph, the organization's president and CEO, said last week she doesn't think anyone will be interested in the building, which may be demolished, but the property it's located on could be valuable. Selling the land could help fund new facilities planned for the Uihlein property.
But Politi said he'd like Adirondack Health to consider donating the land or the building back to the community. He noted that the Church Street property where the hospital is located was donated to Placid Memorial by the Shea family around 1950.
"Ideally, and this is me talking personally, it would make one of two things: It would make a wonderful community center for senior citizens and so forth and/or it's a perfect fit for USOC (the U.S. Olympic Committee, which runs the adjacent Olympic Training Center). I know they don't probably want to hear that, but I'd love to see it go back to the community, as it was originally given to the hospital by the people of the community, the Shea family."
Village of Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall, a former Placid Memorial Hospital board member, also said he'd like the hospital property to remain an asset the community, perhaps as housing.
"There's a need for more suitable housing for our senior community, and also for our younger people so they can continue to live here," Randall said.
Jim Shea Sr. said his grandparents donated the land to Placid Memorial because "they recognized the need for a new hospital in the community." He said he supports allowing Adirondack Health to do as it sees fit with the property, and wouldn't have any objections if it was sold.
"I would not be bent out of shape if that happened," Shea said. "It would be nice if they gave it to USOC - they could probably use it for their facilities - but the hospital has to do what it has to do. It's tough enough to make money. It's been out of my family for a long time. They've put it to good use."
Riccio said it's too early to speculate on what will ultimately happen with the property.
"But certainly all the stakeholders, including the town, the village, the USOC - we've had and we will continue to have these folks at the table as the discussions progress," he said.