Hospital board, Young trade barbs over Lake Shore

The Lake Erie Regional Health System board of directors has fired back after an open letter published by the OBSERVER from state Sen. Catharine Young regarding the possible closing of the Lake Shore Health Care Center.

In a letter to the senator from Christopher Lanski, Lake Erie Regional Health System board president, Lanski said Young’s comments were “incorrect and misleading.”

Lake Shore was expected to close later this month and in December declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Hospital officials state the facility will have lost more than $9 million in 2013. Here is the full excerpt of Lanski’s letter:

“I am writing to you on behalf of the Board of Directors of Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York (LERHSNY) and in response to the “Open letter from Sen. Catharine Young” that ran in the Jan. 4 edition of the OBSERVER. Your letter describes efforts made by you and Assemblymen Andy Goodell and Joe Giglio to “Save Lake Shore Hospital.” At the same time, it communicates information that is both incorrect and misleading.

“Your letter asserts that (the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) is attempting to close Lake Shore Hospital, when, in fact, all decisions relating to Lake Shore Hospital have been and will continue to be made by the LERHSNY Board of Directors.

“Your letter describes decisions as “deeply disappointing and extremely alarming” and references “broken promises” made to build a “new hospital to replace flood-ravaged Tri-County in Gowanda.” The language is inflammatory and fails to accurately communicate, to a community that deserves to know, the financially challenged environment that led to such a troubling outcome.

“This mischaracterization is of great concern to the LERHSNY Board of Directors, since it not only misleads the public, in the absence of real facts, it suggests the exercise of a decision-making process that was careless and dishonest.

“Since 2008, when LERHSNY was formed as the parent organization for Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk and for TLC Health Network that comprises Lake Shore Health Care Center in Irving, Gowanda Urgent Care and Medical Center in Gowanda, as well as the now closed Tri-County Memorial Hospital in Perrysburg, all strategic decisions have been guided and determined exclusively by the LERHSNY Board of Directors.

“The LERHSNY Board of Directors made up of dedicated members of our community and region has the ultimate fiduciary responsibility for the system. We make decisions, often during difficult circumstances, that will uphold LERHSNY’s mission to appropriately provide quality health care for the patients and communities we serve.

“At the Dec. 16 meeting hosted by the LERHSNY Board of Directors and attended by you, Mr. Goodell, Mr. Giglio, and other key political leaders, during which we discussed with you the Lake Shore Hospital situation, it was clear that questions and concerns should be directed to the LERHSNY Board of Directors. Frankly, we are shocked and perplexed by the inaccuracies within your letter published in the OBSERVER, since you participated in the factual discussion on Dec. 16.

“It is our expectation that communications regarding this subject matter are presented accurately. Accordingly, I will provide the OBSERVER a copy of this letter.”

Sincerely,

Christopher Lanski,

chairman,

LEHRSNY Board of Directors

After Young’s office received the letter Monday afternoon, she sent out a response of her own. Her response is as follows:

“My support of the LEHRSNY health facilities over the years has been unwavering. I successfully have worked to secure more than $26 million in state HEAL funds for capital improvements and long term care telehealth since my time in the state Senate. A few years ago, I also secured a $250,000 grant to help purchase mammography equipment for Brooks Memorial Hospital.

“Supporting all entities under the LEHRSNY umbrella, including Brooks, Tri-County Health, and Lake Shore Hospital will continue to be my top priority.

“I believe the members of the LEHRSNY board are sincere and dedicated volunteers, and they have the interests of the community at heart. I purposely did not mention them in my letter because of those reasons.

“However, they are acting on the recommendations that have been put forward by LEHRSNY Interim CEO Gary Rhodes, who is a direct employee of UPMC. Mr. Rhodes receives his salary and benefits directly from UPMC.

“When Mr. Rhodes notified state lawmakers last August that Tri-County Hospital in Gowanda would not be built, it was communicated that the Lake Shore Hospital Emergency Room would be able to handle patients who would have gone to Tri-County for emergency care. If Lake Shore closes, that local care will not be available, and travel times for emergency room services will be up to an hour for some patients. This truly is a matter of life and death, and it needs to be addressed.

“I have received thousands of emails, letters and calls from my constituents who feel that keeping Lake Shore operating is a critical issue for our region.

“I strongly urge everyone to show up at our rally on Saturday, January 11 at 12:30 p.m. at Silver Creek High School to raise their voice to save Lake Shore Hospital.

Senator Catharine M. Young

57th Senate District

Representing Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and portions of Livingston counties