NEWFANE, N.Y. (WIVB) – More than 200 people packed an emergency meeting Monday night where the supervisors of Newfane, Cambria, Wilson and Somerset tried to come up with ideas of how to save Eastern Niagara Hospital in Newfane.
The operators of the facility say no decisions have been made about any closures, but residents say they have seen and heard other signs that the hospital is moving towards closure.
Pauline Laubacker’s daughter has epileptic seizures every few months.
“It could be the difference of life or death,” she said. “And when she goes into these seizures, her heart rate goes between 130 and 180, which could cause either cardiac arrest or a stroke, and with this hospital right around the corner, she can get medical help as soon as possible.”
The hospital has been in Newfane for over 50 years, but it was just about five years ago that it became an Eastern Niagara Hospital. It’s the same group that operates the former Lockport Memorial Hospital, but in the past few months both hospitals have had layoffs.
Town supervisors met with the medical group’s CEO last week.
Newfane Supervisor Tim Horanburg said, “And I’ll tell you the exact statement was made: “If we keep Newfane open, both hospitals are going down.” What does that tell you?”
Newfane resident Debbie Bartenstein opined, “I’ve lived in this community my whole lif;, I’ve raised my children here. This isn’t the first time we’ve been in crises and one thing I do know is this community bands together like no other community I’ve ever seen. We will fight and we will fight hard.”
Horanburg added, “The residents of Northern Niagara County raised the money and built that hospital. There was no state or federal aid, it was the residents who built it, so I wouldn’t put anything past these residents, what we can do. If there’s communication, we can make it work.”
Hospital officials say despite recent investments in the facility, the hospital has struggled because of a trend of more people using urgent care facilities, and changes in the way hospitals are paid, but they stress no final decisions have been made.
The full statement is below:
Eastern Niagara Hospital has made significant efforts on behalf of its Newfane site during the past several years. It invested $3 million in 2010 to renovate the Med/Surg unit to improve the environment for inpatient care. The Dialysis Unit was added in 2011 after this service was identified as a medical need in the community. Radiology equipment/technology has been enhanced, including the additions of a 64 slice CT scan, digital mammography and dual-head nuclear medicine upgrades.
The Hospital effected some layoffs this year at both Hospital sites in response to declines in inpatient volume, a shift toward outpatient services, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, changes in the way hospitals are paid, increases in uncompensated care and charity care, the Medicare sequestration cuts and the difficult healthcare environment.
In response to the Newfane community’s recent concerns, the Hospital is studying a variety of options to reduce expenses, but has made no decisions. In order to remain viable, it is imperative that the Hospital proactively examine opportunities to reshape the organization and utilize its resources in the most efficient manner possible — in accordance with the utilization of services by patients.
Carolyn Moore, Director of Community Relations stated, “Change is a constant for health care institutions today. Hospitals can no longer operate in the same manner they did 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. As the needs of the community and the utilization of services change, the Hospital must also reconfigure. It is essential in order to ensure ENH’s long term sustainability in the region.”
Moore added, “ENH remains committed to providing access to local care. It is taking a methodical approach to evaluate all areas so that it can best meet the changing needs of the community and position the Hospital for continued success. Specifics have yet to be determined. In order to fulfill its mission of providing care to the residents of eastern Niagara County, ENH must continue to achieve fiscal stability — which can sometimes be a painful process.”