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TWO HOSPITALS ANNOUNCE AFFILIATION AGREEMENT

With local negotiations setting the tone and political muscle in Albany and Washington providing much of the money, Lockport Memorial Hospital and Newfane Inter-Community Memorial Hospital announced Monday they are joining forces.

Clare A. Haar, the chief executive officer of both hospitals, said no program cuts are planned under the affiliation agreement.

"We want the community to know that we are committed to operating two acute care sites," Ms. Haar told an audience of politicians, union leaders and hospital employees gathered under a tent in the Lockport Memorial parking lot.

Ms. Haar said, "We hope in a couple of years we'll be able to look at you and say it was successful, and we're back at fiscal stability at one and we've maintained financial stability at the other."

Lockport Memorial is losing money -- it dropped $7 million from 1996 through 1998 -- and came close to bankruptcy earlier this year. Newfane Inter- Community is the only independent hospital in the county that's in the black.

Inter-Community Health Systems, the Newfane hospital's corporate entity, will serve as the parent company for both hospitals. The holding company will soon announce a name change, Ms. Haar said.

New health care programs may be added at the two hospitals, "but not necessarily the same ones," Ms. Haar said.

Although the affiliation had been expected, Lockport board chairman George V.C. Muscato said Monday the deal wasn't done until additional state and federal financial assistance was lined up.

He particularly praised Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-Town of Tonawanda, and State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, for their efforts during the past year, ever since the board learned Lockport Memorial was in dire financial shape.

The deal includes about $4.6 million worth of help for Lockport Memorial.

Leaders of Lockport Memorial's four labor unions hailed the news of affiliation.The affiliation agreement had been expected since Kaleida Health of Buffalo announced at the end of June it would not make such an agreement with Lockport Memorial.

Lockport and Inter-Community had been talking about an affiliation since April, although that was interrupted by Lockport's six-week effort to woo Kaleida.

In late July, the Lockport Memorial board members hired Newfane's executives to manage their hospital as well. That joint management agreement began Aug. 1, and affiliation was seen as a foregone conclusion.

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