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A SHIFT IN CARE

As of today, Our Lady of Victory Hospital in Lackawanna has ceased providing full-service emergency medical care. Instead, it now has an urgent-care center for non-life-threatening injuries.

"I think what they're doing is a tragedy, and it's unfortunate not only to Lackawanna but for the people of Southtowns," said Joseph M. Litwin, owner of Litwin Funeral Home. "That property was founded by Father (Nelson) Baker, who is being proposed to be canonized. Now they're talking about dollar bills, and that's what's bad about it."

The changes at OLV, however, have coincided with changes at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, which now provides acute inpatient care for both hospitals and recently acquired new equipment and dozens of new beds to accommodate the moves.

That includes more beds for the emergency room and additional beds for the intensive care and coronary care units at Mercy.

The sweeping changes are designed to save money while preserving both facilities, said hospital officials, but Litwin said they will be sorry down the line.

"Their problems could have been from poor management. I don't know, but I think they are forgetting the local people who supported the hospital all these years, and it's uncalled for," he said. "I think the move will put too much of a load on Mercy.

Dr. Fred Occhino, one of the physicians forced to move from OLV to Mercy, is not enthusiastic about the transformations, either.

"I am opposed to the changes, but we have to accept them. Right now we're in the midst of chaos and hopefully time will resolve this," he said.

Most of OLV's employees moved to Mercy, but not all. Some OLV employees did lose their jobs, but Joseph Martone, director of public relations for Catholic Health Systems Southtowns Hospitals, couldn't say how many.

"It's hard to put a handle on how many people lost their jobs. There has been some attrition since the process started. People have left and taken other positions," he said. "There will be changes in staffing and management levels."

Also unclear are plans by Baker Victory Services for a $13 million expansion to treat adolescents and adults with emotional and psychiatric problems. When the changes were announced in January, the new arrangement involved giving the OLV building to its next-door neighbor Baker Victory Services, but plans are not completed, Martone said.

"That's still on books. At this point, we're hoping that once Baker Victory clears legal hurdles and financial hurdles, things will fall in place," Martone said.

OLV's urgent-care center is open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. The facility also offers outpatient surgery, head trauma rehabilitation, in-patient medical rehabilitation, eye care and outpatient treatment of intestinal disorders.

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