Most of the unfair-labor-practices charges filed against Lockport Memorial Hospital by its unions last spring have been dropped, a top union official said last week.
Also, the hospital completed the process of paying off all its major creditors except the biggest.
Edwin J. Robisch, staff and program coordinator for the United Professional Nurses Association, said one formal hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 1 on a relatively minor labor-relations charge dating back to last year.
"Most of the other stuff we had has been withdrawn or put on hold," Robisch said. "This is in our interest, not to be adversarial or confrontational with these people."
Clare A. Haar, chief executive officer of Lockport Memorial and Newfane Inter-Community Memorial Hospital, declined to comment on the labor matters.
She said the bill payments were made Tuesday, the last day of August.
Ms. Haar would not reveal the exact amount paid, but she said, "All of our obligations have been met."
If figures released by Lockport Memorial in May were accurate, last week's payments would have been about $600,000. In May, the hospital said it paid about $630,000 toward a total of $1.2 million owed to major creditors who had agreed to give the hospital discounts of up to 50 percent.
But the hospital's biggest bill is still untouched, about $1 million owed to Kaleida Health of Buffalo for computer, technical and laboratory services.
Kaleida has said it does not intend to press for payment until Lockport's management situation is solidified.
Talks on setting up a formal affiliation between Lockport Memorial and Newfane Inter-Community have not yet been completed, although the Lockport board did hire Newfane's management to operate the Lockport hospital, effective Aug. 1.
The County Legislature is to vote Tuesday on a $9 million tax-exempt bond issue through the county Industrial Development Agency. Along with refinancing Newfane Inter-Community's bank debt and funded improvements there, the package includes $2 million to finance the affiliation with Lockport.
The former Lockport Memorial management team, Intensive Resource Group, a Tennessee company, reversed the hospital's flow of red ink -- it lost $7 million from 1996 to 1998 -- but managed to incur the wrath of the hospital's four unions.
The unions filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board over IRG's effort to impose 10 percent pay cuts and its failure to pay raises scheduled under the union contracts. The raises were paid a few weeks later.
Robisch said the Nov. 1 NLRB hearing pertains to a case from late in 1998 brought on by the demotion of a patient care coordinator to the level of charge nurse and later to staff nurse. It predates the hiring of IRG, which took over Jan. 4.
Robisch said since the Newfane management team took over, labor problems have been few.
"There's been a couple, but they've been resolved very quickly," he said. "Frankly, (the Newfane team) walked into a situation where there was no management. I feel extremely optimistic about what's going on here."
He said he was impressed with what he heard in a meeting a few weeks ago with Ms. Haar and other Newfane managers doing double duty at Lockport.
"They seem to be fairly reasonable and interested in reaching solutions, rather than 'damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,' like IRG. Those people didn't have a clue," Robisch said. "That's all we wanted, is to be involved in the solutions, rather than to be hit over the head with a hammer."