Hospital system invests $3M to bring more skilled nursing beds onto campus

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Three floors of a Georgia hospital will be transformed into an 80-bed skilled nursing facility under a nearly $3 million plan approved by its board.

The shift will allow University Hospital in Summerville to provide a continuum of care under one roof (though through a separate entrance), while giving it leverage in a competitive skilled nursing market.

The move also will allow the hospital to shift a share of its licensed beds from an underused, standalone facility and better compete with providers in central and west Augusta, The Augusta Chronicle reported.

The move echoes those made by bigger industry players, who are looking at creative ways to transform how and where skilled nursing patients can be best cared for — and to maximize their property investments. The biggest, most eye-opening move along those lines has been ProMedica's leap into the skilled nursing game by agreeing to buy HCR ManorCare.

University will move beds from its Extended Care Amara facility, currently licensed for 193 patients, into the former 231-bed Trinity Hospital of Augusta. Trinity was acquired last year by University Health Care System, which bills itself  as “one of the largest, most comprehensive healthcare providers in Georgia” with two hospitals, three extended care nursing facilities, home health and urgent care facilities.

Tom Lowenkamp, University's vice president of operations, said the 80-bed facility would be designed with private rooms and bathrooms to compare with University's existing Kentwood and Westwood facilities. It will include secure units for patients with dementia or mental illnesses. He projected the investment would generate 25% returns after the second year and pay for itself in 5 1/2 years.

University Health System officials said they hope to increase the company's share of the central Georgia nursing home market from 20% to 30%, with an eye on competitors including PruittHealth and SavaSeniorCare.