NEWFANE – A letter sent this week by several Niagara County elected officials to the board of Eastern Niagara Hospital emphasizes the need to maintain emergency room services at the hospital’s Newfane location.
Newfane Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg and others sounded the alarm in March that the 63-bed hospital, formerly known as Newfane Inter-Community Memorial Hospital, might be closed for financial reasons. It has been in operation since 1958.
Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert said Thursday that a May 21 meeting between elected officials and the hospital board of directors illustrated that the hospital doesn’t seem to have considered a variety of options for the Newfane facility.
Engert said the hospital offered nothing “other than this plan to repurpose Newfane Hospital from a hospital to an outpatient care site.”
He said hospital officials told the elected leaders that all emergency care and inpatient care, including surgery, would be shifted to the hospital’s 134-bed Lockport site, formerly called Lockport Memorial Hospital. The hospitals have been under joint management since 1999 and formally amalgamated in 2009.
“Frankly, some level of emergency room care is critical,” Engert said. He said the elected officials would prefer around-the-clock emergency room services.
But their letter, dated Wednesday, said they are willing to accept limited hours “if the committee can be presented with verifiable data that can demonstrate an overwhelming majority of emergency room service needs occur over reduced periods and/or during specific consistent hours of each day.”
Carolyn Moore, spokeswoman for Eastern Niagara Hospital, said the hospital would not comment on the letter. There was a board of directors meeting Thursday evening, but Moore said in an email to The Buffalo News that she was certain no decisions regarding Newfane would be made at the session.
The letter was signed by Engert, Horanburg, Supervisors Marc R. Smith of the Town of Lockport, Joseph A. Jastrzemski of Wilson and Wright H. Ellis of Cambria, and Lockport Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey. All but McCaffrey, who had a conflict with a Common Council meeting, attended the May 21 session with the hospital board.
The supervisors previously had urged the hospital to hire a consultant to analyze its data that point toward service reductions at Newfane.
The letter said the hospital did so, but the consultant forthrightly said his only role was to present data he received from Clare A. Haar, the hospital’s chief executive officer.
The plan would keep lab services, dialysis, radiology, and physical and occupational therapy at Newfane, while shifting inpatient care to Lockport.
The elected officials asked in their letter for the hospital board to “engage in meaningful negotiations” with larger groups such as Kaleida, Catholic Health System or Erie County Medical Center, to form some kind of partnership.
“There’s various levels. It doesn’t have to be a sale or an affiliation,” Engert said.
The letter cites a May 2 News article that quoted Kenneth L. Oakley, chief executive officer of the Western New York Rural Area Health Education Center, as saying, “Every one of the small rural hospitals is talking to someone, because they have to.” There is no evidence Eastern Niagara is talking to anyone, the letter said.