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KOKOMO — A Carmel-based therapy company has hired 17 employees laid off by a Kokomo outpatient clinic.
As WRTV Investigates reported, Community Health Network closed the Replay Physical Therapy and Community Howard Specialty Hospital on Aug. 30.
The closures resulted in the layoffs of 121 people between the two Kokomo facilities: 85 workers at the hospital, and 36 employees at Replay.
The day after Replay closed its doors, Elite Therapy moved in, and on Sept. 2 began taking patients.
Elite Home Rehab and Healthcare is a Carmel-based home and outpatient therapy company with locations in Carmel, Kokomo, Logansport, and Lafayette that specializes in therapy, nursing, and home health aide needs.
Physical therapist Michelle Nicholson was laid off from Replay after working there for 25 years.
“I was shocked, really shocked by it,” Nicholson said. “I knew I still wanted to work in my hometown. I’ve been here since I was four, and the people in this town mean a lot to me.”
Nicholson said she and other employees were more concerned for the patients than themselves.
"It was important to me that we were still able to serve our community,” Nicholson said. “The people that we work for are the patients in our community. That was really important to me, to be able to still serve them.”
Nicholson was hired by Elite Therapy and is grateful to the company for giving her a second chance to do what she loves.
“We are people who are very resilient,” Nicholson said. “It’s not the news we wanted to hear by any means, but resiliency is a big thing to look at here. Aiming forward during hard times. “
Julie Howard is a patient at Elite Therapy in Kokomo and receives physical therapy for her shoulder.
She’s one of the dozens of patients who transitioned from the Replay clinic after it closed.
Her therapist, Murt, is among the 17 employees hired by Elite after Replay shut its doors.
"It’s huge because continuity of care for me is everything,” Howard said. “That's one of the reasons I switched to Elite, was because Murt was coming here. And a lot of the therapists switched over to Elite"
WRTV Investigates reported in July Community Health Network opted to close Replay and the Community Howard Specialty Hospital, but the health system did not mention COVID-19 in its statement to WRTV.
"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, a decision has been reached to end operations at Community Howard Specialty Hospital and Replay Physical Therapy," read the statement to WRTV.
The closures came after Community Health Network received $218 million in federal relief funds.
The closure upset patients like Howard.
“I was not happy, I wasn't happy at all,” Howard said. “I was thinking now what am I going to do?"
Elite Home Rehab and Healthcare owner Melissa Dicke says Elite was already doing home therapy in Kokomo and when they heard about Replay closing they saw it as an opportunity.
"Replay was really the premiere rehab facility in Kokomo,” Dicke said. “We wanted to make sure we could continue it, keep that opportunity to the community so we thought we would come in."
Because Elite Home Rehab and Healthcare does home care, they weren’t hit as hard by COVID-19 as many outpatient clinics, plus Elite received some federal funding which helped out as well.
As a result, they were able to hire half of Replay’s former staff members, many of whom have decades of experience in physical and occupational therapy.
Grissom, the therapy dog, made the transition from Replay to Elite Therapy and is still gainfully employed.
"Having a therapy dog that brightens up the clinic is such a huge thing,” Dicke said. “I've never seen a clinic that's had one before, so when I met the dog and got his resume, I was very excited that was could provide that for patients as well."
Even though Replay Physical Therapy closed its doors, Elite Therapy plans to be in Howard County for the long haul.
“Replay was here for a long time and we intend to do the same,” Dicke said.
A spokeswoman for Community Health Network said they've also worked to find jobs for laid-off employees.
"We worked closely with impacted employees to match as many as possible to other openings within Community," said Kris Kirschner, a spokeswoman for Community Health Network said this week. "We have made every attempt to ensure that patients have a smooth transition to other quality care options within the community.”
You can reach Elite Home Rehab and Healthcare at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Its phone numbers are 317-325-8860 or 765-234-8790.