Craig Matthos was among the guests enjoying the flowing champagne, endless sushi, and sweet desserts at a celebration officially opening the sub-acute care wing at the Daughters of Israel Plafsky Family Campus in West Orange.
The 43-year-old resident of West Orange, a financial analyst for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, calls himself an “alumnus” of the facility, which began serving patients in November. Using crutches, his foot still in a special shoe, he told another guest that a nasty fall on black ice in February left him with a fractured tibia and fibula that required more than a home health aide to enable him to recover after surgery.
He was sent to Daughters of Israel for physical therapy and recovery, and stayed in the sub-acute wing for two weeks in early March.
Being separated from the rest of the facility telegraphed an unspoken message, he said. “It told me that they are dedicating resources to ensure sub-acute patients get the care they need and that they won’t get lost in the general population.”
The creation of the sub-acute wing, providing short-term rehabilitation, was part of a larger $12 million construction project at Daughters. Administrators undertook the project to meet the growing request for it in the local community. Daughters offered sub-acute care in the past, but not in this dedicated way.
“A lot of the people who wanted to come to us for sub-acute services really kept telling us they wanted a separate sub-acute unit,” said Susan Grosser, executive director of the facility. “The short-term residents do not want to come here for short-term rehabilitation and live in the same area as the long-term residents.”
The average stay for patients at the sub-acute facility is about 30 days.
The wing includes 27 beds with the option to add another 30 beds. The unit has its own entrance, solarium, and a passage directly to the gym, the center of rehabilitation. It also offers, in every room, a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi Internet access, and free telephone service. There are upscale linens and toiletry products, and an architectural emphasis on privacy.
The specialized care will be provided by Select Medical Rehabilitation Services, an affiliate of the nearby Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.
Matthos, an observant Jew (he splits his time between Congregation Ohr Torah and the Chabad Center of West Orange), also appreciated being in a facility with a rabbi for a chaplain, Shabbat services, kosher food, and religious services three times a day. The sub-acute care facility is otherwise nonsectarian.
The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey provided a grant of $150,000 to cover the cost of new equipment in the gym, as well as the creation of a kitchen that will help people with new disabilities or those in wheelchairs learn how to manage their daily meals. The center includes a therapeutic car enabling patients to practice getting in and out, stairs, a Wii video console, and Nautilus exercise machines.
Daughters of Israel medical director Dr. Joshua Schor said the facility’s onsite medical service sets it apart from others in the area.
“Since I am here on-site much of the time, I am able to see a sick patient who is developing a problem very quickly whose admitting doctor may be unable to see them,” he said.
Three board-certified geriatric specialists are on staff. The general staff is learning new skills and meeting new challenges posed by the sub-acute patients, said Schor. “Getting people back out to where they were is a different model,” he said. “It’s rewarding as a med director to see staff members challenged and responding in a way that is so enlivening to the whole facility.”
Matthos, who was released mid-March, got a welcome hug from rehabilitation director Voltaire Balderrama as he walked in to see the new equipment in the gym. Balderrama was particularly excited by the Nautilus machines and the new kitchen.
“If patients see they can make their own special sauce, they know they’ll be able to manage,” he said.