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Health care panel hearing is today

The first of three public hearings in Western New York by advisers to a state board assigned to recommend the closure of hospitals and nursing homes it considers unnecessary will be held today.

The three-hour session is to begin at 5 p.m. in the Niagara County Community College Fine Arts Auditorium, 3111 Saunders Settlement Road.

However, members of the general public won't be allowed to speak unless they signed up a week in advance, according to the state Health Department Web site. Written and e-mailed comments are being accepted. Information is available at the commission Web site,

Patrick J. Bradley, spokesman for Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, said there are 18 scheduled speakers for today's hearing, primarily hospital and nursing home executives. Some union and political figures also are on the list.

Gov. George E. Pataki appointed the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century in June. Also set up were six regional commissions and advisory committees for each of the regions. Today's hearing is being conducted by the Western New York advisory commission.

A commission report last month targeted Niagara, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties as counties in this region with too many nursing home beds, as measured by occupancy rates. Bradley said the administrators of at least four of the five hospitals in Niagara County are scheduled to speak today.

In a process similar to that used by the Pentagon last year to close military bases, the main commission is to send the governor and the State Legislature a take-it-or-leave-it list of proposed closures by Dec. 1.

The hospitals and nursing homes on the hit list will be shut down by the Health Department unless the governor vetoes the plan by Dec. 5 or the Legislature defeats it by Dec. 31.

Future hearings by the panel will be held at 3 p.m. Friday in Diefendorf Hall on the University at Buffalo South Campus and at 4:30 p.m. March 14 in Scharmann Theater of Jamestown Community College, 525 Falconer St., Jamestown.


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