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Editorial: It's ECMC's turn for $10 million in state funding

Erie County Medical Center has made a formal request to the state asking for $10 million toward its planned new $55 million trauma center and emergency department. The state has yet to reply to the request, but Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should plan to set aside the funds.

The money represents not even a drop in the bucket for New York. It’s a rounding error on the state budget that would make up for years of funding denials for this highly-rated regional facility that serves 1.5 million people across Western New York.

ECMC has been designated by the state Department of Health as a Level I Adult Trauma Center. That designation followed the American College of Surgeons’ verification in April of ECMC as a Level I Trauma Center. To keep the departments technologically current, the hospital has launched a $55 million upgrade.

That project is secured. With the additional $10 million, though, the hospital can make other important infrastructure upgrades that also need to be completed. Given that the state offers grant programs for emergency departments, now is the time for Albany to extend its hand, allowing the hospital to divert other funds into replacing aging boilers and other equipment original to the 1978 building.

For that reason, ECMC has submitted a $10 million funding request to the state Department of Health for the Statewide Health Care Facility Program II grant. Based on the awards for five other emergency department-related projects that were funded in the first set of grants, precedent should strengthen ECMC’s request in this round.

The hospital has attempted to win previously styled grants, to no avail. Examples of the state’s rejection:

  • The Capital Restructuring Financing Program and Essential Health Care Provider Support Program. ECMC submitted a grant request in early 2016 in collaboration with Millennium Collaborative Care. ECMC got nothing.
  • The Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program, which was implemented as part of the state fiscal year 2016-17 budget. A total of $195 million was allocated to the fund, $30 million of which was to be set aside for community-based providers, including federally qualified health centers. During the state fiscal year 2017-18 budget process, the state reauthorized the program and added an additional $500 million to the pool, at least $75 million of which was to go to community-based providers. No money went to ECMC.
  • The hospital applied with Millennium Collaborative Care for another grant, seeking funding to support an integrated IT platform among the Performing Provider Systems member institutions. The ECC/MCC funding request was denied.
  • Of the 91 awards made through the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program I, five emergency department-related projects were funded. None was in Western New York. ECMC did not seek funding in this grant for its emergency department project.

When the Statewide Health Care Facility Program II grant was announced on Jan. 8, it was made clear that priority will be given to projects that were not awarded a grant in the first phase. Following so many dubious funding denials, we hope ECMC’s request is given the proper consideration it deserves.

To meet its mission, ECMC must remain current. That obviously includes upgrading its trauma center and emergency departments, but it also means ensuring that the hospital’s bones – its heating and cooling systems, among others – are modern and working. By providing this $10 million, New York can help ensure the long-term health of the hospital and the tens of thousands of people whose lives it touches every year.

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