Brooks eyeing partner

OBSERVER Staff Report

A possible vote by the board of directors at Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk this week could end an association with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center at Hamot Hospital in Erie, Pa.

Sources close to the hospital say the decision could come on Thursday, but Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York board members who returned calls to the OBSERVER would not comment. If a vote is taken, these three results are possible:

The continued partnership with UPMC Hamot, which currently is providing the leadership at the city hospital through J. Gary Rhodes, interim chief executive officer who also oversees the hospital in Kane, Pa.

A shift to partnering with Kaleida Health in Buffalo, which is undergoing a massive overhaul in terms of layoffs at its affiliated hospitals as well as a new chief executive officer who was announced in January.

Or the institution could go back to being independent and stand on its own.

In all, the OBSERVER reached out to 10 of the hospital’s board members. Three board members spoke with the newspaper, but none would offer any details. “As a policy, we aren’t permitted to comment on matters such as this,” said Susan McNamara, board member.

Others the OBSERVER spoke with referred comment to Chris Lanski, LERHSNY board chairman. He did not return calls made Thursday to both his work and cell phone.

One board member said he did not know of the meeting while others the OBSERVER attempted to contact were out of town.

For years, Brooks Memorial Hospital was known for being fiscally responsible and often reported a surplus in its annual report. The 2012 year was not so kind.

According to the IRS 990 supplied by the institution, the hospital had $41.3 million in revenues, but $45.4 million in expenses, leading to a deficit of more than $2.3 million. For its part in 2013, the hospital has claimed losses of nearly $3.5 million.

Those currently on the board of directors, who have decided to take a silent stand in the past and present regarding the future of the important community institution, include: Lanski, Lou DiPalma, Gene Bailen, Walter Gotowka, Dr. Richard Milazzo, Virginia Horvath, Andrew Burr, Dr. G. Jay Bishop, Dr. Kevin Ouweleen and McNamara.

Previously, the board also consisted of Timothy Cooper, Dr. James Wild and Virginia Cooper. Those three now serve as board members for TLC Health Network and Lake Shore Health Care Center.

Lake Shore in 2012 showed a more than $5 million surplus, which was due in part to federal grants that came to the facility due to the 2009 flooding. In 2013, with most flood funding dried up, the facility lost nearly $9.5 million.

In terms of the operating budgets, the two facilities combined have lost more than $20 million since 2008, when the Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York was formed.

Currently, TLC and Lake Shore remains in bankruptcy and may be forced to close if a buyer is not found. Prospects, for the time being, seem bleak.

A Buffalo bankruptcy judge has the final say on the Irving facility’s future.

OBSERVER staff writer Greg Fox contributed to this article. Send comments to