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ECMC EYES ASSUMING HEALTH DEPT. DUTIES HOSPITAL CHIEF SAYS MOVE WOULD MAKE CENTER MORE COMPETITIVE, HIKE REVENUE

The head of the Erie County Medical Center revealed Wednesday that a hospital takeover of some Erie County Health Department services is being studied.

"We feel it would add significantly to our primary-care base and our outpatient care and help us be more competitive," said Paul J. Candino, executive director of the hospital. "It could, in the long run, lead to several million dollars in terms of additional revenue streams."

Candino said he discussed the move with County Executive Gorski, who told him to return with more facts and figures.

But two county officials, Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, the chairman of the County Legislature Health Committee, and Dr. Arnold N. Lubin, the county health commissioner, say Candino has not spoken to them.

And Swanick has sent a letter of protest to Gorski, which is on today's County Legislature agenda.

"Decisions of this magnitude cannot and should not be made within a vacuum, and I would suggest that your administration begin involving appropriate individuals immediately," Swanick said in the letter.

Candino confirmed that he visited health facilities operated by the Health Department in February and early this month to discuss his ideas with staff members, union officials and county legislators from those districts. He said he did not inform the Health Committee or contact Lubin.

"If (Swanick) called me up last week I would have faxed him all the information to date," Candino said. "Up to now we haven't completed our review so we don't have a recommendation."

Swanick said the Health Committee learned only last week that the medical center proposes assuming responsibility for services performed at three clinics: Dr. Matt Gajewski Center, 1500 Broadway; Roberto Clemente, 104 Maryland St.; and Lackawanna, Wilkes-Barre Avenue. The centers serve more than 14,000 children and adults, offering dental and medical services.

The medical center also wants to become the state-designated entity for providing in-home health care, also assuming that responsibility from the Health Department, Swanick said.

Lubin said he learned from his staff that hospital administrators requested information but said Candino did not approach him directly.

Many factors must be weighed to determine the most cost-effective way to provide care without degrading service, the commissioner said.

"If the answer is the hospital, we will support that," Lubin said. "If we have reason to believe the proposed way is not the best, we will present our point of view."

Lubin also disclosed that the Health Department is considering becoming the provider for in-home care, a service it halted in 1989. Those services currently are provided by private agencies that are funded through the county.

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