FARMINGTON — San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, the only in-patient rehabilitation facility in the region, has recently undergone renovations that will help the staff better serve its patients.

For more than 20 years, the 16-bed facility at 525 S. Schwartz Ave., has provided rehabilitation therapy to patients with life-changing conditions like traumatic brain and spinal injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

Before the facility opened, patients had to be flown to other cities like Albuquerque, Phoenix or Denver for in-patient rehabilitation, said rehabilitation therapist Sue Clay, the facility's program director.

"And they had to wait, sometimes for weeks, before they could get placed in one of these centers," she said.

Recent renovations include new flooring, walls and cabinets, as well as more decorative touches, such as adding art from local artists. Other functional changes lowering the in-room sinks and expanding some rooms to accommodate special rehabilitation programs will allow the hospital to increase its patient capacity and incorporate the latest rehab technology and therapies. All the changes are aimed at making the center more modern, comfortable and relaxing for patients.

Clay expects the hospital will serve about 270 patients this year.

Most of the patients, whose conditions have left them needing assistance with everyday activities like getting out of bed, walking, and feeding themselves, have come directly to the rehabilitation facility from hospital stays at San Juan Regional Medical Center.

"The patients are ready for rehab when they are stable enough to do three hours of therapy a day," Clay said. "The goal of this type of therapy is to help the patient transition successfully back to the community, and to return them to as normal a life as possible."

Physiatrist Carletta Thompson is the facility's attending physician. The hospital also has a core staff of physical, occupational and speech therapists, as well as registered rehabilitation nurses. Three neurologists from San Juan Health Partners Neurosurgery are also on-call to provide treatment.

"This is a very team-oriented approach, because it takes many specialties to help someone improve. It's a group effort," said Clay. "Therapy is all connected to help the person function."

Since the goal of therapy is to return patients back to their lives in the community, the facility also focuses on training caregivers. The center offers hands-on training for family members to help patients with the transition from the hospital.

"Family support is extremely important for a patient's recovery, but the families need training and education in order to help the patient become fully rehabilitated," Clay said.
A remodeled room at the San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.
A remodeled room at the San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)
"Our mission is to provide good care, get the patient home, and follow-up with the patients."

Some of this follow-up care includes monthly stroke and aphasia (communication problems) support groups for those who have completed in-patient therapy.

Clay said the success of the hospital can be measured by comparing its statistics with national averages.

About 90 percent of the center's patients return to their lives in the community, compared to the national rate of 76 percent, she said. Another measurable outcome is the readmission rate. Clay said the center readmits only about 5 percent of its patients, which is half the rate of other facilities nationwide.

The facility also boasts state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment such as the Lite Gait, which utilizes a harness and hydraulics to lift the patient into a standing position. This helps lessen the patient's fear of falling and decreases the risk of injuring a therapist who would otherwise be lifting the patient.

"We are the only facility in the Northwest region to have the Lite Gait the next closest one is in Albuquerque," said Clay.

The center also has the only therapeutic pool in the region. Certified therapy pools are maintained at a certain temperature, and they use equipment, like hydraulic lifts, to help patients get in and out of the water.

While most of the facility's funding comes from Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance providers, the rehab center's board chair Barbara Cole said that the board has been looking at fundraisers as a way to add more amenities, like a therapeutic garden.

Cole points out how unique it is for a small community like Farmington to have such an advanced rehabilitation in-patient hospital. The intensity of in-patient treatment can make all the difference, she added.

"So many places in the community say they are rehabilitation facilities, but people don't realize that this is the only in-patient rehabilitation facility (in the region)," Cole said.

Leigh Black Irvin can be reached at; 505-546-4610. Follow her on Twitter @irvindailytimes.