Tonawanda News

March 16, 2014

Fear growing that Newfane hospital may close

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@tonawandanews.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Amid a growing fear that Eastern Niagara Hospital’s Newfane site may close, town supervisors are looking for a way to prevent it.

Newfane Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg is meeting concerning the hospital on Monday with the supervisors of Cambria, Somerset and Wilson. Local fire companies, emergency personnel, civic and community groups will also attend.

The meeting is slated for 7 p.m. at Newfane Town Hall, 2737 Main St.

Horanburg said he’s planning on holding a meeting for residents within the next week, possibly Saturday.

Horanburg had met with Eastern Niagara Hospital officials twice, most recently last week with ENH CEO Clare Haar. The meetings centered around the financial struggles of the Newfane hospital, such as rising expenses and a drop in patients.

After those meetings, Horanburg said there is a serious fear that the Newfane facility will close.

”That’s the concern,” he said. “They won’t say it, but it’s heading into that direction.”

Carolyn Moore, ENH community relations director, confirmed there have been 15 layoffs since Jan. 1 “across the board, both sites combined.”

Moore said ENH is continually looking for ways to operate efficiently, which unfortunately includes staffing changes. The hospital must continue to match resources with the ongoing utilization of services, she said.

”But no decision has been made to close the hospital,” Moore said.

Horanburg said the layoff total was closer to 21 and a series of services had been cut from the facility.

”They’re picking it apart,” he said. “They’ve been dissecting it apart for the last year and a half.”

In January, ENH confirmed the Newfane site had stopped employee cafeteria services on evenings and weekends. Pharmacy hours were reduced as well, to 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Residents have said Newfane physicians are being asked to refer patients to ENH’s Lockport site at 521 East Ave. for diagnostics.

”You almost can’t classify it as a hospital,” Horanburg said.

The Newfane site, 2600 William St., was once known as Inter-Community Memorial Hospital, has been under the same management as its Lockport counterpart since 1999. The hospitals formally became ENH in 2009.

Eastern Niagara Hospital is building a $3 million outpatient surgery center on South Transit Road in Lockport, expected to open this summer. Eastern Niagara also owns a nursing home, the Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Care Center.

Horanburg said ENH took the Newfane hospital’s financial strength and moved $2 million to help out the Lockport facility when they merged with the Lockport hospital.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, Horanburg said.

“We fought two state commissions that tried to close it, now we can’t let our own people close it,” he said. “It’s too important to Newfane.”

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