Infusion of funds from FEMA lets Lake Shore hospital stay afloat - The Buffalo News

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Infusion of funds from FEMA lets Lake Shore hospital stay afloat

WASHINGTON – The financially struggling Lake Shore Health Care Center in Irving got another much-needed infusion of federal cash Friday, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to release $805,490 in reimbursements that can be used immediately to prop up the hospital’s finances.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., announced the release of the long-delayed money, which stems from devastating flooding that occurred at Tri-County Memorial Hospital in Gowanda in August 2009.

Tri-County closed after Cattaraugus Creek overflowed its banks and flooded the hospital’s basement and ground floors, and FEMA helped pay for its replacement with an outpatient urgent care facility.

But Tri-County’s other services were transferred to Lake Shore, making the hospital eligible for the FEMA storm recovery aid.

Unlike a $5 million FEMA award last month that can be used for new construction at the hospital, the money announced Friday can be used to fund operations at the facility, whose owner, TLC Health Network, is mired in bankruptcy and seeking a buyer to keep Lake Shore open.

“Today’s news that FEMA is releasing over $800,000 in reimbursements to TLC is critical to Lake Shore Hospital and should give them more time to keep the hospital running while they search for a long-term buyer,” Schumer said.

John Galati, interim CEO of TLC, agreed.

“These funds will help us meet outstanding obligations and keep the Lake Shore facility operational as we move through this difficult time,” Galati said.

The new federal disaster funding covers projects that TLC undertook and already paid for in wake of that 2009 storm, such as the demolition of the Gowanda hospital.

While the earlier FEMA payment may be appealing to potential purchasers of the hospital who would know they would have funding for an improved facility, the payment announced Friday will help TLC pay its creditors, said Scott Butler, division director of business development at TLC.

Butler credited Schumer as well as Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, for helping Lake Shore receive the post-disaster funding it had long been owed.

Schumer said that FEMA still owes TLC some additional funding, and that he’s working to get the agency to release that money as well.

“The FEMA reimbursements are a great first step – and they can be used immediately – but we will hold their feet to the fire to release the remaining funds,” Schumer said.


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