July 02--NEWFANE -- Eastern Niagara Hospital announced today that it plans to transfer all inpatient and surgical services now offered at its Newfane site to its Lockport location, leaving Newfane with a 24-hour emergency room and some outpatient services.
As a result of the changes, which will take effect in 60 to 90 days, about half of the roughly 123 employees at Newfane will be laid off. Many of the others will be transferred to Lockport.
"I'm extremely disappointed," Newfane Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg said. "It needs to be a hospital, like it always has been."
Chief Executive Officer Clare A. Haar said the hospital system lost $1.7 million in the first five months of this year.
Lockport attorney George V.C. Muscato, chairman of the hospital board, said earlier this week that the Eastern Niagara system had been in the black for 10 years in a row, through 2013.
"I can't speak to that, because they wouldn't let us look at their books," Horanburg said.
Haar said, "Frankly, maintaining two sites nine miles apart has been quite a feat. We've been able to afford it up until now."
She said there had been a slow decline in admissions for years, but there was a drastic drop starting in October.
Muscato blamed it in part on the Affordable Care Act. He said the high-deductible Obamacare insurance policies have discouraged admissions.
"People don't want to go to the hospital," he said.
Newfane, which is licensed for 71 beds and recently has been offering 63, has been averaging 12 to 15 inpatients per day, Haar said.
Lockport has 134 beds. It was formerly called Lockport Memorial Hospital and has been under common management with the former Inter-Community Memorial Hospital of Newfane for more than a decade. Eastern Niagara Hospital is a not-for-profit organization.
Of its workforce of 560 full-time equivalents, 123 were working at Newfane. That included 193 people: 88 full-time, 62 part-time and 43 per diem, in the wake of some layoffs in February.
"I'm concerned about the job loss," Horanburg said. "A lot of those workers were single mothers, supporting families in northern Niagara County. It's a killer to lose any jobs, especially that many."
Haar said another government-caused financial problem has been Medicare's new "two midnights" rule, which took affect in October. If a Medicare patient is in the hospital for less than two days, the hospital is reimbursed about one-fifth as much as it would be for a longer admission, Haar said.
The hospital is in talks with Kaleida and the Catholic Health System regarding possible alliances that would result in sharing services, Muscato said.
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