Another blow below the belt line, the closure of Lake Shore Health Care Center in Irving, has everyone in shock and, frankly, reeling. How many more jobs can be cut in this area before it actually begins to look like a Detroit solution might be in the works?
Adding this to the closure of Petri's, the layoffs at Brooks Hospital and the other elephant in the room, the fate of NRG, is almost insurmountable. But, back to the closure of Lake Shore specifically, I have more than a few questions, and a few things I'm frankly outraged about.
The management of a local health network, which includes Lake Shore, can place all the blame they want to on others, but no way should anyone allow them to get away with it. This is poor management, plainly and simply, and has been in the works for years, contrary to those who want to blame the Affordable Healthcare Act. To not lay blame at the feet of those responsible for stupid decisions, decisions on buildings and purchases of property and equipment, all while a large portion of the network was hemorrhaging money, is just not logical.
How much was that office lease and elevator in the Fredonia Fire Department building? How long was Brooks Hospital paying for the errors and poor money management of Lake Shore? How many extra administrative staff were hired? Is there a list of administrative staff fired for incompetence before layoffs of hard working staff occurred? Staff that actually contributed to health care? Show me that, please.
Why isn't someone being held accountable? Well, since it's obvious that the administration had to know the dire financial circumstances of Lake Shore Hospital well before they asked for and spent $1.9 million in grant money to renovate their emergency room, one has to ask why that would have happened? I ask this question, (and it is a question, not an accusation) would the improvement to that emergency room add to the value of a building one was planning on selling? I have written Sen. Cathy Young and posed that question to her, and asked for an in depth investigation.
That money is my tax money. I know many think grant money comes from the Tooth Fairy, but it doesn't. It's yours and my tax dollars! Again, it could not have been a surprise that the hospital was in trouble. Why was that money spent?
TLC owned Tri-County Hospital in Gowanda, as well. Did TLC ever receive any money for the flooding and destruction of that hospital? If so, where did it go? Certainly it did not go to a new hospital. And since the large percentage of patients that used to go to Tri-County was obviously going to Lake Shore, why was Lake Shore doing so poorly? "Business" should have increased exponentially and one would think would have helped the situation.
If running a nursing home is such a good deal, a decent business, then why did the nursing home attached to Lake Shore fold as well? Why was that losing money? If they couldn't make it, how will anyone buying our County Home make it successfully? If they have numbers to show they'll be profitable, then again I return to the question of what happened at Lake Shore?
I can remember in the not-too-distant past when Lake Shore had a better reputation than Brooks Hospital for quality of care. What changed? We all know the answer to that, and what changed was the management of the hospital and specifically the entry and creation of the TLC Network, apparently the perfect example of how not to run a health care system.
Yes, I know, reimbursements have changed, rules have changed, and I understand all of that. I also understand that managers of all health care facilities are faced with these changes, far too many to list all of them here, yet most get by. Brooks was doing fine until the absorption of Lake Shore, and obviously if they made a profit under those rules and regulations, there were other reasons for the hemorrhaging of money at Lake Shore going back to that time.
Even more obviously, taking money from the slim surplus at Brooks to shore up the mismanagement of another hospital wasn't the answer and that, in my book, is an issue of management, not the economy nor a change in rules and reimbursements. Don't forget that many employees were also laid off at Brooks before this bomb went off. I have to ask, was that another attempt to stave off the inevitable?
This is not a time for politics. This is especially not an issue for partisan politics. All of us collectively in this region have a right to know what happened, and I don't mean the explanations offered by those in charge. Our taxes have been dispersed to the tune of millions of dollars to an organization that used that money in an inappropriate manner. We all should be motivated to write and contact every elected official from this region and demand an in-depth investigation detailing spending, hiring and especially management expenses dating back to the formation of the TLC Network.
All I know for sure is, I'm not accepting the explanations I've heard so far, and I have to rely on that old adage that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it's probably a duck. My letters are going out now!
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org