Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center: Herbert H. Friedman, Executive Vice President

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The geriatric homes of years past often conjured up visions of large institutional nursing facilities where elderly patients spent their remaining days. It’s that impression that Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center is working to erase as the facility expands at its Commack, N.Y. location to provide everything from kidney dialysis to short-term physical therapy.

“The plain vanilla nursing home that existed 20 years ago won’t exist in the future,” said Herbert H. Friedman, Executive Vice President of Gurwin. “The expectations and needs of baby boomers and Generation X are different. So, we look to the future with projects like a continuing care retirement community, independent housing, an education and research center, specialty units and a rehabilitation center.”

What started two decades ago with a mandate from the volunteer board to be “the best of the best,” the 300-bed Gurwin Jewish Geriatric Center housed on ten acres is now the 460-bed Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, with 80 beds for short term sub-acute care and rehabilitation, 28 beds for ventilator-dependent patients, a 12-station dialysis center and a medical adult day program that serves 133 outpatients a day, six days a week. Today, Gurwin also operates two home care programs, a licensed agency which is a separate corporate entity, and a Lombardi Program which is part of the nursing home. In addition, the Gurwin Jewish ~ Fay J. Lindner Residences is an elegant assisted living facility, located on a 10-acre site contiguous to the nursing and rehabilitation center.  The community houses 201 full apartments with one or two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and bath. There are currently 225 residents in the assisted living community.

In all, Friedman, who has been with the organization since 1986, noted that Gurwin serves more than 1,000 residents and patients every day through its not-for-profit programs and services, in space that covers 34 acres and with more than 1,300 employees.

“At the time of the center’s inception in 1988 the facility operated on an $18 million budget,” he said. “Today, our total expenditures across all offerings total $105 million.”

Full-service Organization

Friedman considers Gurwin’s full-time, dedicated medical staff just one of the many things that separate Gurwin from other long-term care facilities. All physicians on staff are board certified in geriatrics and also certified in either internal medicine or family practice. In addition, Gurwin maintains an on-site pharmacy, a radiology department, a fully equipped ophthalmology suite, a complete audiology suite and a dental suite with lab.

Name Change

Gurwin underwent re-identification in 2008 to better represent the full-spectrum of services offered at the facility. The organization has doubled its rehabilitation staff, including occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy. The number of rehabilitation beds has also doubled in the past year – from 40 to 80 – and a recently-completed physical expansion project added 2,500 square feet to the rehab department.  The addition of the on-site dialysis center further enhances Gurwin’s ability to provide rehabilitation services to patients who previously could not be admitted due to the need for dialysis.

“We were doing a lot of rehabilitation, particularly with younger patients undergoing joint replacement surgery,” Friedman said “We were becoming more focused on rehabilitation, so we thought it was time our name reflected that.”

Other Expansion Plans

Plans are also underway for construction within the next two-to-three years of independent housing on 10 additional acres that are contiguous with the existing Gurwin campus. The proximity will allow individuals to age with grace in a continuing care retirement community that has  healthcare services already in place.

“We will further expand the continuum of care, moving to the next lower level of care,” Friedman said. “We started with the nursing home, then expanded into home care, then developed assisted living, and now we’re getting ready to build independent housing to complete a continuing care retirement community.”

Gurwin’s strategic plans also include the launch of an education and research center that will use the campus as a laboratory for research projects. To date, the organization has already participated in more than 13 clinical drug trials, and maintains more than 40 affiliations with universities and training programs.

Maintaining Familial Philosophy

Gurwin staff members are treated like family, Friedman said, noting that the organization is only as good as the people who work there. One program that demonstrates management’s respect for personnel is a program under which Certified Nursing Assistants can attend school to become licensed practical nurses (LPN). Gurwin pays their tuition, as well as a full-time salary and benefits, as long as they work three days a week and attend school full-time. The organization also supports a similar education program for LPNs to receive their RN degrees.

“Programs like these create bonds,” Friedman said “Nursing staff can move around and find jobs anywhere. But, if you invest in them by affording the opportunity to advance by paying their tuition and salary, you create a bond. It’s like family.”

Another feature that creates a familial environment is the provision of subsidized, on-site child care for employees’ children. The Children’s Garden at Gurwin accepts children from ages six weeks to five years, and is available from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

It’s programs like these that lead to Working Mother magazine naming Gurwin one of its 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers in 2006.

Government Funding Reductions

During the last two years, Friedman said Gurwin has seen multiple cuts in funding from the New York State Department of Health. The center handles a significant number of Medicaid and Medicare patients, and the executive said the organization is dependent on reimbursement dollars to cover care for those patients.

“With the current economy, the government is collecting less revenue in taxes and they have less money to spend,” he said. “Things are becoming tighter and more challenging than ever before.”

Expanding the business model to include independent housing and retirement living is one way Friedman sees Gurwin dealing with the reductions in government funding. These new offerings are not as dependent on dollars from outside entities, he said.

Gurwin’s Future

When looking at Gurwin’s growth to date and plans for the future, Friedman recalls a recent presentation he gave that highlights the center’s history. In that presentation, he provided evidence showing that every few years, from the time the board was formed up until today, Gurwin either expanded an existing program or opened a new program. The organization’s strategic plan included short-term and long-range opportunities, almost all of which have come to fruition.

“What we dreamed really came true,” Friedman said. “I would like to think that’s because of the skill of our people.”

-by Kathy Knaub-Hardy

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