Taking action to save Lake Shore

“We are open for business and we continue to provide quality care for our patients,” said Scott Butler, public relations director for Lake Shore Health Care Center.

Richard and I had the privilege of visiting Lake Shore Hospital in Irving this past month. I say privilege because the staff made us feel like our comfort and care was their only concern. If one didn’t know better they wouldn’t have any idea that the hospital was on the brink of closing, or that the staff of more than 400 could soon be out of a job.

Debbie, a surgical unit employee, told me that everyone was concerned with doing their jobs and taking care of the patients for as long as the hospital remained open. She said, “We can’t worry about what might be. We have to do the best we can for our patients today.”

The nurses in the surgical unit could not have been more caring or professional. That spirit of compassion was evident throughout the facility and with everyone with whom I spoke, and that includes Butler.

Everyone knows that hospitals cannot operate when they are losing money. Hospitals have to meet certain standards, and maintain a high level of credibility and trust among its staff, doctors and the community. In speaking with Mr. Butler I felt that he truly believes this level of trust has not changed. He told me, “There is a lot of ambiguity. Our first option is to save as many financially sustainable health services as we can. In the past three years we have seen a major decline in population and revenue. Although the volume of patients has dropped, we are still here and open for business. We are continuing to provide quality care to our patients.”

When I asked about the offer from area businessman Anthony Borrello, I was told, “the offer is still on the table; it has not been rejected.” What about other potential offers? Mr. Butler told me that he had no knowledge of any other formal offers at this time. So will the hospital close or be sold?

Butler told me that the governor could also make a difference in this matter. So, I called the governor’s office. After all, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been visible in Erie County of late, so why not here in Chautauqua. However, when I contacted his office, I was told by one of his assistants, “this is a local issue and the governor has no statement at this time.”

How disappointing.

Senator Cathy Young has also spoken out on this issue. It is her opinion, according to WIVB-TV, that filing chapter 11 would give a potential buyer some time. She stated that she “has been working behind the scenes with the state on this issue and it is her impression that there may indeed be a chapter 11 filing for the hospital. Senator Young reported that, “it is critical that the emergency room, surgical operations and the behavioral health operations stay in place.”

We need Lake Shore Hospital in Irving. This hospital is a vital part of our community and employs 460 of our neighbors, friends and family members. The governor’s office is right, Lake Shore Hospital is a local issue!

If Lake Shore Hospital closes, Brooks Hospital will be the only acute-care hospital in the area. But, one can always be transferred to Hamot in Erie, or to one of the hospitals in Buffalo. This may not be as convenient as it sounds.

Hamot may be out of network for many (if not most) NY insurance policies. Primary care physicians may not be able to treat their patients at Hamot or in Buffalo, and the distance during this time of year can be an added problem. The hospitals in Buffalo as well as Hamot in Erie may be fine hospitals, but if they are out of your insurance policy network, they might not be the answer for you.

It’s the economy! Lake Shore is closing because of economics, pure and simple. But who stands to gain and who stands to lose? The residents of the area Lake Shore Hospital services will be the losers it is a local issue. The jury is still out as to who will gain, as Butler told me, “there are a lot of rumors going around.”

I want to dispel the rumors and have left several messages for Gary Rhodes, CEO Brooks, and John Galati, Interim CEO of Lake Shore. They have not returned my calls. After reading the statement Mr. Galati made to the OBSERVER one can surmise that the hospital is still for sale, but it is also still slated to close so which is it? Or will there be a chapter 11 filing?

Governor Cuomo could make a difference. We need to let the Governor know that we need Lake Shore Hospital. Call (518-474-8390, write NYS State Capitol Bldg., Albany, NY 12224, send an email www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php .

Have a great day – and let your voice be heard.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com