It has been said that all politics is local. The same can be said of health care, which is why the New York State Commission on Healthcare Facilities in the 21st Century's "one cure fits all" solution is fatally flawed.
The commission began its work with the premise that the single biggest problem in driving up health care costs was overcapacity -- too many beds, too few patients. It sounds logical, but like so many things in the world of science and health, what sounds logical may not necessarily be true.
Alan Sager, director of the Health Reform Program at Boston University, studied the issue and concluded that closing facilities did not have the desired effect.
In fact, the closure of hospitals led to a more specialized, more expensive and less accessible health care delivery system.
Western New York has one of the highest rates of cardiac disease in the nation. We also have significantly higher incidences of stroke.
There is also a higher concentration of patients with multiple sclerosis than in most areas of the country. Are our health care costs and needs really the same as those in Syracuse, Utica or New York City?
Just a few years ago, I had the privilege of helping coordinate the unveiling of the strategic plan for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. There was genuine excitement among those in attendance that health care could be the driving force for a new Western New York economy.
State and federal lawmakers climbed over each other for every photo op and the chance to be seen as a facilitator for the renaissance of our region. The vision extended beyond the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to the University at Buffalo and the network of hospitals and ancillary providers throughout the region.
Now, many of these same lawmakers will force hundreds of health care workers to the unemployment lines. The commission's recommendations are to Western New York health care what foreign steel imports were to Bethlehem and Republic Steel.
Our community has different health care needs and a different economic imperative than the rest of the state. Yes, we have excess capacity in our system, but is it really the root cause of escalating health care costs? Maybe, and maybe not.
The commission is a solution in search of a problem, a cure that -- in our case, anyway -- is likely far worse than the illness.
As Western New Yorkers, we need to address the issues raised by the commission. If eliminating overcapacity can help address the problem, we need to find the right solution for downsizing. Albany needs to provide incentives and guidance, not mandates and threats.
Chuck Hayes is the Transformation Communications Specialist for the Catholic Health System and has also served as a marketing and communications consultant to health care organizations regionally and nationally.