The Smith House Health Care Center has officially been purchased by Elizabethtown Community Hospital.
On Oct. 31, the Smith House health center at 39 Farrell Road in Willsboro was officially made part of the Elizabethtown Community Hospital family.
That was the day that the two organizations closed on the sale of the Smith House to ECH, although the two sides had been working together for the past two years.
“The main thing is that ECH now moves from consulting to ownership,” Smith House Board Chairman Nick Muller said. “We developed a contract in the fall of 2010 and gradually, ECH had started to manage our operations. Smith House was increasingly being run more professionally than it had been, and there has not been a hiccup in the delivery of medical services.
“We had provided medical oversight for the Smith House and it worked out well,” ECH CEO Rod Boula said. “It helped get us to the point where we were at in 2010 and their board asked us to proceed with this.”
The transaction was a purchase of assets, including the Smith House building, equipment and assets associated with it, as well as the former physical therapy building located in Essex. Boula said that the board is currently looking at options for the building, that could include selling it.
“We do not see a use for it as of yet,” Boula said.
The Smith House Health Center now joins the ECH health centers in Elizabethtown, Wilmington and Westport, offering four community-based clinics in Essex County. Boula said there were no current plans for expanding that reach.
“We have a strategic plan that we have in place,” Boula said. “If we have a community that comes forward and asks us to look at this, we would certainly do that.”
Muller said that the sale of the Smith House was vital in order for the facility to remain in business.
“We had been victimized by our size in the current health environment,” Muller said. “Insurance companies reimburse facilities different for the same procedures, and it is based on your muscle in the system and the Smith House alone did not have the muscle.”
Muller said that the board had looked at several options to keep the Smith House in business.
“We felt that this was the right one, and we are now certain that we did choose the right one in ECH,” he said. “This is an administrative change, not a change in the health care that is provided.”
“It is certainly unfortunate to see a facility like the Smith House go through what they did,” Boula said. “But this will help us continue to put primary health facilities in the local communities and have them keep the same staff.”
The staff at the Smith House will remain the same, something that Smith House board secretary Win Belanger said was always a main concern among customers.
“I have been working on this for two years, and the first question I am always asked is if there will be more people changing,” Belanger said. “We are so stable with the people that are there now, and they have all actually been on the ECH payroll over the past two years. You are going to see the same person at the front desk, receive care from the same doctor and have your blood drawn by the same nurse.”
“The two organizations have worked together for a long time, and this kind of makes it official with the purchase,” community relations director Jane Hooper said. “The purchase of the Smith House serves the communities of Willsboro and Essex because the people who use this facility will continue to receive the same care from the same people seemlessly.”