State Announces Grants for Western New York Facilities To Implement Berger Commission Mandates

ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 17, 2008) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today announced the Health Department will award a $65 million grant to Kaleida Health to assist it in complying with the mandate of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century to close Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle in Erie County.

The report issued by the Commission, also known as the Berger Commission, named a number of western New York facilities, including Millard Fillmore, and further required Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center Corporation (ECMCC) to join under a single unified governance structure and reconfigure services including comprehensive heart and vascular services.

"While there is substantially more to be done to meet the Commission's mandate, I am pleased with the significant progress since the appointment of the Western New York Health System and the selection of Robert Gioia as Board Chair," said Commissioner Daines. "The Board continues diligently to meet and address the challenges posed by this important mandate, and I have every confidence that it will achieve an integrated, unified health care system that meets the needs of western New Yorkers."

Among the remaining challenges is identification of the location for comprehensive heart and vascular services. As the WNYHS board continues to meet to define priorities, additional funding may be available to further integrate services between the two systems.

The Commission mandates directed to western New York are very comprehensive and affect numerous facilities, including three hospital closures and reconfiguration of acute, primary and long term care services. In addition to Millard Fillmore Gates Circle, another member of the Kaleida system, DeGraff Memorial Hospital in Niagara County, is required to cease operations as a hospital and convert to a residential health care facility.

St. Joseph's Hospital of Cheektowaga, a Catholic Health Systems facility in Erie County, is mandated to close. These three hospitals scheduled for closure annually treat more than 60,000 patients in their emergency rooms. "Given the extensive impact on emergency services and long term care, careful DOH review has determined that these two mandates be reviewed over the next few years in order to protect patient health and safety," Commissioner Daines said.

In addition to these closures and reconfigurations, the Commission also recommended that Sheehan Memorial Hospital align its services with the greatest needs of the community: substance abuse treatment and outpatient services. To support this effort, the Commissioner announced an award of $4 million for the development of community services. The Department along with OASAS and OMH continue to work with Sheehan to ensure the services most needed by the downtown Buffalo community continue to be available.

The complicated closure process for Millard Fillmore will begin soon and be completed over the next couple of years. DeGraff Memorial Hospital will continue to provide acute and emergency services through June 2011, while further assessments are conducted on primary care development, long-term care and emergency services. "Transferring nursing home beds to DeGraff Memorial Hospital, as mandated by the Commission, is not a viable option at this time because the recommended transfer of nursing home beds and services provided by Degraff cannot be achieved without endangering public safety," said Commissioner Daines.

David D. Brown IV, executive director of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, said, "Our agency is pleased to be able to provide the financial services that enable the state Health Department and local health care facilities do this important work that will result in a better system of affordable high-quality health services in the greater Buffalo area."

Commissioner Daines also announced an award of $8 million to St. Joseph's of Cheektowaga to support closure activities, thus allowing Sisters of Charity Hospital to operate acute and emergency services at the St. Joseph's site at least to June 2011. Commissioner Daines said, "St. Joseph's serves an extensive aging population, and the assessments we are conducting will further inform the future need for services at the St. Joseph's site." This funding allows continuation of services while such assessments are conducted.