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Hospital closures leave a void: Families concerned after closure of local Community Howard Specialty Hospital, Replay Physical Therapy

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leighton rogers

LIKE FAMILY — Leighton Rogers participates in therapy at the soon-to-be-closed Replay Physical Therapy. The 5-year-old has undergone therapy at the facility for nearly three years.

The closure of two Kokomo facilities operated by Community Howard Regional Health will leave a hole in the City of Firsts for some area families.

Last week, it was announced that Community Howard Regional Health would be closing both Community Howard Specialty Hospital and Replay Physical Therapy at the end of August. That development came as a shock to some who have utilized the services available at these facilities.

“It’s really devastated us,” said Nicole Sheridan whose 5-year-old daughter was treated at Replay Physical Therapy.

Sheridan has taken her daughter, Leighton Rogers, to Replay for nearly three years. There Rogers received occupational, physical, and speech therapy to help deal with difficulties associated with a rare brain disorder, subcortical band heterotopia.

With Replay closing, Sheridan said she now has to explore other options. But, switching up care providers for her daughter is difficult, since she’s nonverbal, and it’s harder for her to get to know a newer care provider.

“There’s only a handful of places here in town that do (pediatric) therapies, and they already have their own patient load,” said Sheridan. “So, trying to place all these other children that go to Replay, I can only imagine how difficult it will be. It’s pretty much left us devastated. Our daughter has used her therapist, she’s been seeing him for almost three years. It’s hard for her to really, she’s nonverbal so it’s hard for her to get to know new people.”

According to a release from Community Howard Regional Health, the decision to close the facilities came after a “thorough evaluation of the needs of this community, the changing landscape of healthcare and how to best align Community Howard Regional Health’s services to sustainably meet those needs both now and in the future.”

The specialty hospital facility is home to inpatient rehab, outpatient therapy services, and a sleep study lab. Replay Physical Therapy operates under the license of Howard Specialty Hospital and offers a broad range of therapies.

The release also noted that sports medicine programs at area school’s would not be affected by the closure.

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CARE — Leighton Rogers, 5, receives three forms of therapy for subcortical band heterotopia, a rare brain disorder.

“Current patients at both facilities will continue to receive the same level of high quality, compassionate care. Replay Physical Therapy’s sports medicine program at area schools will not be impacted by the future closure. As a nonprofit healthcare system, Community Health Network has a responsibility to constantly analyze the needs of the communities it serves as well as changes in the landscape of healthcare,” read the statement from Community Howard Regional Health. “Community remains committed to serving the greater Howard County region and these changes, while difficult, will continue to put Community Health Network and Community Howard Regional Health on the best path forward to achieving that mission over the long-term.”

The announced closure also came as a blow to Heather Carter, who received treatment at the specialty hospital in 2009.

Then, at the age of 33 and seemingly in perfect health, Carter suffered a massive stroke.

“I can remember a neurologist telling my husband within my earshot that I would most likely never be able to work again,” said Carter.

But, Carter went on to receive treatment at the local facility, and she credited the staff of the specialty hospital with her ability to return to work full-time as a bank manager within nine months.

“There is no other facility like this in Kokomo,” said Carter. “If this would have happened to me today, I would have had to go to a nursing home and would not have received the same level of care. I’m sure if I would have gone to a nursing home they would have done their best, but they don’t have the facilities to help people regain their mobility, learn to talk again, how to blink their eyes again. I had to relearn all those things.”

Carter also said that she’s had multiple family members treated at the specialty hospital, including recently.

She said she hoped that Community Howard Regional Health would reconsider closing the facility.

“I just don’t think they understand what a valuable asset this is to the community,” said Carter. “Maybe unless they hear from people in the community that got their lives back, they’ll understand how needed it is.”