Health Commissioner Praises Chautauqua County Effort to Implement Berger Commission Mandates

ALBANY, NY - June 12, 2007 – Today's agreement, announced by three Chautauqua County hospitals, on a coordinated plan for future health care services shows a deep commitment to community needs, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said today.

"The work by Chautauqua County Health Network's Hospital Restructuring Task Force shows the good that can come when hospital leadership reflects on the trend toward outpatient care and focuses on the long-term needs of the community," Commissioner Daines said. "Staff from the State Health Department have been working with the regional health-care leaders, and we look forward to reviewing their entire plan."

The chairmen of boards of Brooks Memorial Hospital and the TLC Heath Care Network have agreed to work on consolidations of their two hospital systems into one governance structure, including an active affiliation with Westfield Memorial Hospital. Westfield Memorial will seek to convert to an upgraded diagnostic and treatment center with emergency care, establishment of four "observation beds" for up to 24 hours of care, retention of its outpatient programs and elimination of its inpatient beds. Westfield will retain its affiliation with St. Vincent Health System in Erie, Pa., and seek affiliation with the new system created by the consolidating of Brooks Memorial the TLC Health Network, which operates Lake Shore Hospital and Tri-County Memorial Hospital.

The close geographic proximity of these small rural hospitals, each with clinical specializations, presented a "unique opportunity to concentrate medical/surgical, psychiatric and chemical dependency services and to achieve substantial efficiencies," according to the November 2006 final report of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, also known as the Berger Commission. The Commission's recommendations became legal mandates on January 1, 2007, with a timetable for implementation that will end on June 30, 2008.

"Seeking community support and feedback will be important to this plan," Dr. Daines said. "We hope all Berger-affected institutions will keep their communities informed about their changes, to help minimize disruption to patients."

These hospitals have announced that their plan will be submitted to the State Health Department in June, along with an application seeking some of the $550 million available for Berger implementation. This funding, with applications due July 16, is available to reimburse affected hospitals and nursing homes for their costs incurred or due to be incurred to implement Berger mandates. Funding is provided through the Health Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers (HEAL NY) and the Federal-State Hospital Reform Partnership (F-SHRP).

All Berger-affected facilities are scheduled to provide DOH with a quarterly update on June 30. These will be reviewed to determine progress made in implementing the Berger Commission's mandates.

For information on the HEAL NY/F-SHRP funding, please go to: www.health.ny.gov/press/releases/2007/2007-05-16_heal.htm.