Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

April 18, 2014

Local leaders seek more dialog with ENH

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Community leaders are asking Eastern Niagara Hospital officials for a few things, including a second meeting of the sides.

Those leaders include Lockport Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey, Newfane Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg, Wilson Supervisor Joseph A. Jastrzemski, Lockport town Supervisor Marc R. Smith, Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert and Cambria Supervisor Wright Ellis.

The group sent a letter this week to the ENH Board of Directors about the feared closure of Eastern Niagara’s Newfane hospital site.

The letter shared some goals that the supervisors have, Engert said, based on concerns residents have brought to them.

“We felt it was important for us to look for opportunities where we can partner with the hospital and be helpful,” he said.

In addition to another meeting, local elected officials are asking ENH to consider bringing in an independent consultant, creating a detailed plan for continued operation in Newfane and establishing a community advisory committee.

“We’re trying to do whatever we can,” Horanburg said. “Hopefully we can get something going.”

Engert said the hospital hasn’t responded yet, but an employee did call him Thursday morning to acknowledge the board had received the letter. 

ENH officials have been in communication with the supervisor group, Engert said.

“We’re encouraged,” he said. “Things are moving along.”

Eastern Niagara Hospital officials did not return a phone call from the Union-Sun & Journal seeking comment on the discussion Thursday.

ENH spokeswoman Carolyn Moore has repeatedly said that no decisions have been made concerning the Newfane hospital. But she also has said administration has to make adjustments in staffing and look at every expense to help weather financial challenges the hospital may face.

In their letter, the community leaders thanked ENH representatives for a March 25 meeting between the groups. “We stand ready to work with you,” the letter reads.

Engert said a consultant would be brought in to help the supervisors and the public better understand the challenges hospitals are facing. A consultant would offer insight on industry trends and advice concerning a sustainability plan for the Newfane hospital.

The letter mentions a plan for keeping certain services intact at the William Street facility. Supervisors are asking for a way to keep radiology, cardiac, laboratory, dialysis, physical therapy and emergency room services going at Newfane.

As for the advisory committee, Engert said both the supervisors and ENH reps agreed it would be helpful. The committee as proposed might consist of a single representative from each town and the city, as well as Niagara County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross and the Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton.

The purpose of the advisory committee would be to promote continued dialogue and communication between ENH and the community. The committee would have no binding authority to make any decision concerning ENH.

Communication between ENH and the community has been an issue, Horanburg said. When it became clear the Newfane hospital was struggling, Horanburg said no one knew the details of what was going on. That includes elected officials, emergency workers and fire company volunteers.

“We’ve should’ve been brought in a long time ago,” Horanburg said. “There could be some good ideas out there.”

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241, or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.