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The Catholic Health System of Western New York today named the people who will sit on the new institution's first board of directors and offered a status report on its consolidation of area hospitals.

As proposed, the system will consist of 42 entities, most notably Mercy Hospital and Sisters Hospital in Buffalo, Kenmore Mercy Hospital in the Town of Tonawanda, Our Lady of Victory Hospital in Lackawanna and St. Joseph Hospital in Cheektowaga.

It also will include Genesee Mercy Healthcare, the organization formed by the consolidation of St. Jerome and Genesee Memorial hospitals in Batavia. In addition, the system will affiliate with the Health System of Niagara, a network consisting of Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

The Catholic Health System would be one of Western New York's largest non-government employers, with 12,660 workers and 1,542 physicians. It would operate more than 2,000 hospital beds and 1,206 nursing home beds.

Officials describe the system as a "virtual merger" because the hospitals will share income but not assets. Each hospital plans to retain its name and medical staff, but all will be governed by a 19-member central board of directors.

A chief executive will be named in a few weeks, according to J. Joseph Castiglia, the chairman of the new Catholic system board.

Officials said they plan to file papers this month seeking antitrust clearance from the Federal Trade Commission.

"Patients should start to see some changes at the end of the year or early next year," Castiglia said.

Unanswered questions include what the Catholic system will do with all its buildings. The need for hospital beds has declined, and consolidations elsewhere have led to layoffs and new uses for underused buildings.

Castiglia said it's too early to make any decisions. The system lacks a hospital that provides heart surgery. Castiglia said no decision has been made on contracting with another hospital or making the investment to perform the operations in the new system.

The new board members were chosen by the four religious orders that sponsor the hospitals: the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, the Daughters of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and the Diocese of Buffalo.

They are Castiglia, former president and chief executive officer of Pratt and Lambert; vice chairman, Paul D. Bauer, former executive vice president and chief financial officer of Tops Markets; Mecca Cranley, dean of the University at Buffalo Nursing School; Dr. Robert John Erickson, president and chief executive officer of Buffalo Family Medical Associates; James W. Fulmer, chairman and chief executive officer of the Bank of Castile; Paul J. Battaglia, managing director of Battaglia, Andrews & Moag; and James E. Biddle, owner of Mader Construction Group.

Others are Dr. James Giambrone, chief executive of Associated Physicians of WNY; James Glynn, owner of the Maid of the Mist Corp.; Robert Macey Jr., senior vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank; Dr. Bertram Portin, former Sisters Hospital chief of colon and rectal surgery; Arthur Ross Jr., attorney at Albrecht, Maguire, Heffern & Gregg; Stuart Steiner, president of Genesee Community College; Dr. Datta Wagle, St. Joseph Hospital urology department chairman; Sister Marilyn Perkins, chairwoman of the Daughters of Charity board of directors; Sister Andrea Ciszewski, general minister of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph; Sister Peggy Gorman, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; and Monsignor Henry Gugino, diocesan director of Catholic Charities of Buffalo.

The 19th board member will be the new chief executive officer.

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