BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County Medical Center has moved forward with its plan to build a new state of the art emergency department, including selecting a general contractor that will oversee and lead the $58 million project.
But members of the Erie County Legislature believed the project would be further along by now. Representatives from ECMC said legislators can thank themselves for that.
The plan to borrow $100 million dollars for ECMC’s first major renovation to its emergency department in decades set off a political firestorm this spring.
The hospital asked the state-based fiscal stability authority to borrow the money because it could be done at a cheaper rate, saving the area’s only Level 1 trauma center money in the long run.
The measure was approved in late March.
But to members of the legislature, especially those who disagreed with the borrowing plan like Republican Chairman John Mills, nothing has been done since.
“There’s no transparency here,” said Mills, R-Orchard Park. “As chairman of the legislature, and my colleagues on the legislature, we know nothing about how they’re proceeding. We haven’t heard a word, from anyone.”
The hospital says there is an urgent need for a new ER.
As an example, ECMC saw nearly 70,000 patients last year, in a facility’s that’s more equipped to handle 45,000.
The emergency department hasn’t seen a major upgrade since the 1990s.
“That makes sense because it’s a prime ER,” Mills said. “It’s where we send all of our critical patients. But, don’t tell the taxpayers of Erie County that you need it, and now you’re dragging your feet.”
The hospital has long said the project is expected to be complete by the third quarter of 2019, and that ground would be broken some time this summer.
Hospital spokesman Peter Cutler called the reaction from Mills “disappointing,” and said it was the legislature — and not the hospital — that bogged down the decision.
“Emphatically, there is no delay,” Cutler said. “If there’s any delay, it sits squarely in the county legislature.”
He said political delays forced the hospital to apply to the New York State Department of Health a month later than desired.
The DOH must consider and approve ECMC’s certificate of need before the project can move forward. What could have happened during its March/April session, has now been pushed to its May/June session, Cutler said. The DOH next meets on Wednesday.
“We would have far preferred to be there in March/April,” Cutler said.
“But to suggest a lack of transparency is simply not accurate,” he said, adding that a representative of the county legislature sits on the hospital’s board of directors. “Every aspect of this process is a public process.”
The meetings hosted by the DOH to consider such hospital projects are also open to the public.
Meanwhile, the hospital has moved forward with selecting a general contractor to oversee the $58 million project. Rochester-based Pike Construction was selected after a public bid. Canon Design, of Grand Island, was selected as the project’s design firm.