A city lawmaker wants Erie Community College to locate its medical training programs at a former hospital less than a mile from the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, though it’s unclear if ECC is interested in the proposal.
“If the jobs are in the medical corridor, and you have the main community college of Buffalo located in downtown Buffalo, at least a portion of it, why wouldn’t you connect the jobs and the education in the same area?” said Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen. “This to me seems like a win-win, especially when we’re talking about building a premier medical campus.”
ECC learned of Pridgen’s proposal this week, when it was filed with the City Clerk’s Office.
Pridgen said he wanted the backing of the Common Council before he approached ECC.
Pridgen wants ECC to consider moving its health-related programs, such as training for medical and dental assistants, phlebotomists and technicians, to the former Sheehan Health Network facility at 425 Michigan Ave., which the McGuire Development Co. purchased late last year.
ECC President Jack F. Quinn Jr. and the board of trustees will discuss it and keep open the lines of communication with the city, said Michael Farrell, public information officer for the college.
Pridgen, who represents the area, said many people who live around the medical campus want to work in their own community and would benefit from expanded opportunities to train for those jobs.
“If McGuire was able to get in practicing physicians in the same building where students were learning in the medical field, it’s a no-brainer to me,” he said.
The college leases parking spaces at the site, but has no other formal relationship with the property, though principals from both organizations have had discussions, according to a top official with McGuire.
McGuire purchased the facility in November at a U.S. Bankruptcy Court auction for $2 million, and the company is exploring several health care-related uses for the nine-acre property. The building is 140,000 square feet and is surrounded by parking, with the potential to expand.
In addition to medical and dental care providers, McGuire would like to locate training programs there, including those for medical device technicians and its own certified nursing assistant courses, which train about 500 people every year at its headquarters at Delaware Avenue and Allen Street, said McGuire Development President James F. Dentinger.
McGuire has talked to ECC about its vision for the property, though details were not discussed, Dentinger said.
The facility is currently vacant, though it is heated and secure, and health care providers are expected to move into the first floor and second-floor dental lab in the next two months, he said.
A group of physicians is in talks with McGuire about a plan to establish a health center that includes primary, specialty and dental care, as well as urgent care and some outpatient surgery.
The Greater Buffalo United Accountable Health Network, with eight physician practices, wants to use Sheehan to expand its health home services.
A health home is a concept for dealing with expensive and difficult-to-treat individuals in which a single organization is assigned to coordinate care, including follow-up after medical visits and referrals to social services.
One goal of health homes is to reduce the frequent, avoidable hospitalizations and emergency room visits that have become common among patients with multiple chronic illnesses, substance abuse problems, mental illness and disabilities.
The state is rolling out health home programs in phases. The Greater Buffalo United Accountable Health Network is one of three initial health home lead organizations that began last year in Erie County.
“There is a need in the area around Sheehan for culturally sensitive care in which the services are well integrated. Our idea is to serve, train and employ in that neighborhood,” said Dr. Raul Vazquez, who operates Urban Family Practice on Buffalo’s Lower West Side and is chief executive officer of the Greater Buffalo United Accountable Health Network.
Sheehan sits in an area largely populated by African-Americans and marked by poverty and many patients with poorly controlled chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, Vazquez said.
“We (the medical community) need to and can do a better job of managing these conditions so that we keep people out of the hospital,” he said.
Vazquez said three of the network’s doctors would relocate their practices to the building and the others would refer patients there for services, such as urgent care.
The group is in talks with McGuire on the plan, including a desire by the doctors to have an equity stake in the building.
“We want ownership. We need to have skin in the game. It creates a different commitment level,” Vazquez said.