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Erie County Medical Center today collected a reward from the county for thrifty practices -- a $1.6 million check.

Comptroller Nancy A. Naples said the check represented money set aside from past budgets for paying off the medical center's mortgages and equipment debt.

"They are declaring a dividend, if you will," said Sheila Kee, the medical center's chief financial officer.

Ms. Naples said that the nest egg represents cooperation among county departments.

In times of a changing health care environment, it's incumbent on all of us to work together," she said.

For the county and the hospital, the $1.6 million is similar to the interest an individual might collect on a certificate of deposit.

They still have to pay the mortgage and credit card accounts even as the cash comes in.

Paul Candino, the medical center's chief executive officer, said the accumulated money represents interest on appropriations banked before payments came due and leftover bond money when projects came in under budget.

"The cash in-flow is much appreciated, and we welcome it," Candino said. "It will allow us to reduce our total indebtedness and make necessary on-going renovations and equipment investments through 1998."

Candino said the facility has three important projects scheduled next year:

A $2.5 million renovation of Trauma Intensive Care units.

A $1 million purchase or lease of a second cardiac catheterization laboratory, a machine that determines extent of blockage in the great vessels around the heart;

Leasing, at $1 million over the course of the lease, a spiral computerized axial tomography scanner.

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