NEWFANE – The state Health Department on Wednesday approved Eastern Niagara Hospital’s plans to end inpatient care at its Newfane site, effective Aug. 29.
Hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Moore said workers who were targeted for layoff, the equivalent of 60 full-timers, will continue to be paid until Oct. 13, which is the deadline date the hospital gave them in the federally mandated 90-day layoff warning letter.
But not all of them will be working after next Friday.
“It’s going to be a department-by-department assessment,” hospital CEO Clare A. Haar said. Some workers will move from Newfane to the larger Lockport site; others will stay at Newfane to provide the emergency and outpatient services that will remain; and others will be offered help in finding new jobs, Haar said.
Moore said if emergency room patients at Newfane need to be admitted, they will be transferred to Lockport, by a private ambulance firm, not by local volunteer fire companies, and the hospital will pay the tab.
“I fully expected the Health Department to approve it,” Newfane Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg said. “As far as they’re concerned, it complies with their guidelines.”
“We became aware that it was not going to be a full review. It was basically a matter of hitting a few check boxes,” Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert said.
Horanburg said the solution is to get rid of Haar.
“We’re trying to convince the board for a change in administration,” Horanburg said. “I feel she’s going to take the entire hospital system down, including Lockport.”
“This is not an administration or a board cause,” said Lockport attorney George V.C. Muscato, the chairman of the board of the not-for-profit hospital. He said the changing health care environment and the region’s stagnant population add up to not enough patients for too many beds. He compared it to recent school and church closures in the region.
“What we’re experiencing is a certain group of people who don’t want to acknowledge this fact,” Muscato said.
“We need to move ahead for operational reasons and for financial reasons,” Haar said. “The best thing is to do it at this time and do it quickly.”
The former Newfane Inter-Community Memorial Hospital, which opened in 1958, came under shared management with Lockport Memorial Hospital in 2000. The hospitals formally merged into Eastern Niagara Hospital a few years later.
Newfane is licensed for 71 beds, although it hasn’t offered that many in recent years; Lockport is licensed for 134. Newfane fell into the red last year.
“They created that,” Horanburg said. “What (Haar) has done is dissect that hospital to the point that it can’t be utilized. … They should give it back to the community.”
“We’re trying to preserve health care for this community,” Muscato said. “We’ve had to make some hard and unpopular decisions.”
“I just don’t feel confident this administration can address the quality-of-care issues that have become apparent in recent weeks,” Engert said. “I’m very afraid this is just a domino that is going to result in the collapse of the Eastern Niagara system.”
He continued to urge Eastern Niagara to consider affiliation or merger with a larger system to remain afloat.