Greenport’s San Simeon by the Sound in danger of closing

San Simeon by the Sound Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation is struggling to keep its lights on and may face permanent closure if the current operators do not find a partner to help sustain it financially. 

After dealing for several years with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, as well as staffing shortages and increasing costs, board president Leueen Miller said this week that San Simeon has only enough money to sustain operations until February. 

If it were to shut down, Ms. Miller said, it is likely those who live at the 120-bed skilled-nursing and rehabilitation facility will be displaced. Many would have to find alternative options away from the North Fork. 

“Especially for our aged, their ability to have their family visit them is crucial to their health and well-being and sense of themselves,” Ms. Miller said. “If you’re midway up the island, that’s a whole different story — people will not be able to do that and that will have a really dramatic effect on residents’ well-being.” 

Established in Greenport the 1970s, San Simeon sits on County Road 48 on land owned by St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. Any decision regarding the nursing home’s future must include the San Simeon board, the church board and the church congregation, Ms. Miller said. 

The nursing home leases roughly four acres of the church property, which Ms. Miller said has worked well so far. 

“It was really the only nursing home out here. Peconic Landing didn’t exist, and Eastern Long Island Hospital was an entity on its own,” Ms. Miller said. “[San Simeon] got really all the patients that couldn’t go home for one reason or another or needed rehabilitation for several months — so the nursing home did pretty well.”

San Simeon by the Sound accepts both Medicare and Medicaid recipients, according to its website. Medicare covers an admission to San Simeon for up to 100 days after a hospitalization, on doctor’s orders, while Medicaid provides medical care to individuals who can’t afford it. Currently, Ms. Miller said, the majority of San Simeon’s patients are Medicaid recipients. 

Over the last 20 years since its opening in 2002, Peconic Landing has become home to over 840 independent living members aged 62 and older with access to various amenities, cultural arts opportunities and assisted living and skilled nursing care. It is also the second-largest employer in the town of Southold.

The life care community launched a new Center for Well Being in 2022 and established a partnership with Stony Brook Medicine, bringing in more specialty care physicians to the East End.

Once Peconic Landing began offering short-term rehabilitation stays, it “ate away” at the number of San Simeon patients, Ms. Miller said.

“If you’re in the hospital, you can’t go home and have to go to rehabilitation, and somebody asks you if you want to go to Peconic Landing or San Simeon — you know where most of us want to go,” Ms. Miller said. “Despite the fact that the nursing care is better at San Simeon.” 

Additional problems began to arise more recently, including having to shut down its adult day care facility due to COVID-19, Ms. Miller said. This amenity, which provided a space where elderly family members could be dropped off for the day and be picked up in the evening, was never brought back, she said. 

Staffing issues and finding nurses to work at San Simeon has also become a significant problem in post-COVID times. 

“You can’t get nurses out here — I mean it has just gotten wild,” Ms. Miller said. “The cost of food is prohibitive, while at the same time, Medicaid [funding] has not increased.”

San Simeon is struggling to attract enough paying Medicare patients to compensate for the number of Medicaid patients — and the Medicaid allowance does not cover the expenses, Ms. Miller said. 

She noted that this problem is not unique to San Simeon, but is a nationwide issue. 

“Most [nursing homes] used to be owned by the Catholic Church, other nonprofit organizations, and they now have all been either closed up or they have been bought by a for-profit,” Ms. Miller said. 

The benefit of finding a for-profit buyer would be the economies of scale it provides, Ms. Miller said. If purchased by a for-profit organization, San Simeon would potentially have access to more staff, an accountant, physical therapists and other resources to make it a more “financially viable operation,” she said. 

San Simeon by the Sound has received support from elected officials, including Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who Ms. Miller said was “instrumental” in securing approval of $4 million worth of special loans from the state for struggling nursing homes. 

Unfortunately, all of the money San Simeon received was used to pay off its mortgage, she said. The board is in the process of applying for another loan. Additionally, incoming Southold Town supervisor Al Krupski and Greenport Village Mayor Kevin Stuessi have reached out to see how they can help, Ms. Miller said. 

The San Simeon board is currently seeking to partner with a not-for-profit or for-profit organization. However, a for-profit partner likely would only be interested if they can purchase the land as well, she said. 

Ms. Miller confirmed that some progress has been made, however nothing is set in stone yet. . More updates are to come at the start of the new year.

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church has agreed to sell the portion of its land San Simeon occupies to a for-profit partner if that’s necessary for the survival of the facility . 

Ms. Miller said the board is getting an appraisal for the land, which will be the subject of negotiation with whoever might want to take over the nursing home. 

“It’s like a mushroom effect,” Ms. Miller said. “It’s one issue after another.” 

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Dec. 21.