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HOSPITAL LAYS OFF 9 MANAGEMENT EMPLOYEES

Lockport Memorial Hospital Wednesday laid off nine management employees, including chief operating officer Thomas A. Sy.

The layoffs, apparently approved during a meeting of the hospital's board of directors Tuesday night, were were revealed during Wednesday evening's Lockport Common Council meeting, when Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, told his colleagues that one of the employees dismissed was his wife.

Marietta Schrader said that Sy, Sharon Allen, director of patient registration, and Mark Cooper, the director of the Reflections drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit, were among those laid off.

Her statement was confirmed by hospital sources who asked not to be identified. They said all nine positions were non-union, and that a 10th job, now vacant, also was to be eliminated from the hospital budget.

Board Chairman George V.C. Muscato could not be reached to comment Wednesday night.

Mrs. Schrader, a clinical reimbursement specialist, said she started working at the hospital in June 1975 as a registered nurse, and has never worked anywhere else.

"I was called down at quarter to nine . ...... (Wednesday) morning," she said. "I was told my position was eliminated. I was told to go upstairs, get my coat and purse, lock my door, and turn in my key. They said I could make an appointment to come back and clean out my office."

Despite that, Mrs. Schrader said she received a letter stating her official termination date would be Feb. 10.

She said she was not altogether surprised by the move.

"I knew that when this group came in, they would probably look at positions that had been there for a long time and that had benefits," Mrs. Schrader said.

The hospital laid off the equivalent of 37 full-time employees during December. Also, President and Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Vlosky resigned.

Lockport Memorial, which lost more than $3 million in 1998, is being operated by Intensive Resource Group, a Tennessee-based company hired effective Jan. 4.

IRG, a subsidiary of Quorum Health Resources LLC, one of the nation's largest hospital companies, signed a six-month contract to manage Lockport Memorial. IRG supplied a new president and chief executive officer, Erich Wolters.

Besides the same insurance reimbursement problems which have bedeviled all New York hospitals since insurance deregulation in January 1997, Lockport Memorial has had a cash-flow crisis it blamed on a botched installation of a computerized billing system, which prevented it from sending out bills promptly.

Six management employees were replaced last summer because of that problem.

Mrs. Schrader said, "I hold no grudge against the hospital itself, but I do hold the board of directors responsible. . . . We didn't get in this mess overnight. I just don't want to see anything happen to that place. I've spent half my life at that place. I refer to it as 'my hospital.' "

The city holds a mortgage on the hospital, a note on which the hospital has made only one monthly payment in the past year and a half. Lockport Memorial has asked for the mortgage to be renegotiated, but no deal has been made.

Alderwoman Constance M. Beccue, R-3rd Ward, said, "If they've got answers enough to lay people off, they've got answers enough to tell us what they're doing with our money."

Council President Michael W. Tucker, R-7th Ward, said he would set up a meeting between the Council, private auditors from the city's accounting firm, Fox & Co., and hospital managers.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the hospital has released its financial data to the city on a confidential basis. He said any discussion of the material would take place behind closed doors.

The hospital is also seeking $800,000 from a state Dormitory Authority fund for distressed hospitals. Ottaviano told the Council, "That is good for us as a creditor."

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