IRVING – A Western New York buyer will make an offer this week for Lake Shore Health Care Center, Chautauqua County Executive Gregory Edwards said Saturday night, leaving him optimistic about the Irving hospital’s future.
Edwards said a proposal will be presented this week to the board of the hospital, which announced Oct. 16 that it planned to close the facility as of Jan. 31, throwing 460 people out of work.
Edwards said the buyer, whom he would not identify, “is just the kind of person you’d want involved.”
He said he was privy to the back-and-forth of the negotiations, and he said the board of Lake Shore’s parent entity would be receiving an offer that Edwards said “would be tremendous to keep essential services and maintain local decision-making. … I’m particularly interested if we can maintain a local ownership interest.”
He said the Seneca Nation of Indians, which had been rumored to be interested in buying the hospital, is not involved.
Earlier Saturday, Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo said he had heard that the Senecas would be involved in a plan to save Lake Shore, but Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. issued a statement making no such commitment.
The Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus Territory is located about a mile from the hospital.
“The Seneca Nation is very concerned about the recent announcement to close Lake Shore Hospital,” Snyder said. “This health care facility provides vital services to members of the Nation on the Cattaraugus Territory and all of the residents of the region. The reality is that if the ‘closest care’ is the best care for patients in emergency situations, this closing will have major impacts on the health of our people, plus the burden it will put on our volunteer first responders who dedicate themselves to saving the lives of others. It is a situation we are watching very closely.”
Meanwhile, Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello, who has been working on a plan to save the facility, said he had firsthand knowledge of a potential buyer, which he described as a company with medical and hospital experience.
Borrello, R-Silver Creek, said the company has made a purchase offer to the hospital board, and he said two other health care organizations also have expressed interest.
Borrello released to The Buffalo News a letter he sent to Christopher Lanski, president of the Lake Shore board.
The legislator wrote, “You now have an offer in front you that is more than fair and will fulfill your obligation to the community you serve in your not-for-profit status. I am urging you to do the right thing when it comes to the purchase offer for Lake Shore Healthcare Center that has been presented to your current CEO, Gary Rhodes.”
Lanski could not be reached to comment Saturday.
A brokerage firm, the Hill Group, has been marketing the hospital and will present the purchase offer, Edwards said.
Lake Shore has an affiliation agreement with UPMC Hamot of Erie, Pa., part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Lanski said when the closure plan was announced that the board was seeking a 90-day window to find a buyer for Lake Shore, which disclosed earlier this month that it expects to lose $7 million this year.
“This is a very tight time frame deal because of the 90-day window,” Edwards said. That is the legally required warning period for such a large number of potential layoffs.
Borrello’s letter to Lanski said, “If you truly intend to do what is best, by allowing this hospital to be sold to a group of investors that intend to continue its operation, then you should accept this current offer and instruct your broker, the Hill Group, to allow the necessary due diligence time for a transaction of this magnitude.
“Also, you need to continue to operate the facility in good faith so operations are not jeopardized. This is no different than if you were to sign a contract to sell your house. Once you make the deal you need to keep the house in the condition that was agreed upon in the sale. You wouldn’t start stripping out the copper piping or taking out light fixtures and door knobs.
“If your true intention is to sell the hospital and your commitment to the community is genuine, then you need to follow through with this offer and help save jobs and the critical health care services that Lake Shore Health Care Center provides,” the letter said.
Edwards said he was informed that the hospital’s patient count dropped significantly Friday and some nurses were sent home.
The board of Lake Erie Regional Health System, the facility’s parent organization, voted Oct. 15 to shut the hospital, effective Jan. 31.
The closing announcement, released Oct. 16, came as a shock and surprise to many in the community. In the past several years, many improvements have been made to the Irving campus, which includes a 24-bed inpatient hospital unit, surgery suites, an emergency room, a mental and behavioral health inpatient unit, and long-term skilled nursing beds.
Other facilities, including a laboratory and physical therapy facilities also are on site.