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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

Closing St. Joseph is a huge mistake

I believe the recommendation to close St. Joseph Hospital in Cheektowaga is a huge mistake and will result in chaos and tragedy. The Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century has acted irresponsibly by recommending closure of two hospitals and essentially eliminating four emergency departments and intensive care units when you factor in converting DeGraff to a nursing home and merging ECMC and Buffalo General. This will surely result in overcrowding of the remaining facilities and overwhelmed health care providers.

The region's population may be declining, but not in the area served by St. Joseph. There will be precious minutes added to transporting seriously ill or injured patients to Buffalo, and this will result in preventable deaths.

Is this right-sizing or downright negligence? These cuts are too drastic. Perhaps they should close one facility, let the community adjust and then see if further measures are warranted. These recommendations are only going to lead to more decline in the region, leaving behind a bigger percentage of Medicaid population. I urge state lawmakers to reconsider.

Susan Dold



Westfield Memorial is vital to community

I am very concerned about the decisions made by the hospital closing commission. There has been a lack of due process and local community involvement, resulting in the elimination of inpatient services at Westfield Memorial Hospital.

There has been insufficient financial analysis as to the impact on the hospital or our community. There has been no analysis as to the impact of primary health care.

Westfield Memorial is a model for rural health care. It has been affiliated with St. Vincent Health System in Erie, Pa., for over 10 years at an annual savings of $1.2 million. Our hospital provides the critical link to service for vulnerable populations, including the elderly, the Amish and the poor.

There is already a shortage of primary care physicians in our area. If these recommendations are allowed to take place, it will be impossible to recruit new physicians. Westfield Memorial is the largest employer in the village, and the loss of these jobs will be detrimental to the community.

The additional travel time to Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk or WCA Hospital in Jamestown will be difficult, especially in bad weather.

Our community is part of Western New York, yet I have seen very little published in The News regarding our situation.

David L. Carr

Mayor, Village of Westfield


There are better ways to improve health care

The noble goal of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century was to recommend a more efficient approach to delivering health care services. But what does that really mean?

If we are streamlining only to save money, that means delivering fewer services, maintaining fewer beds and offering less help to the underinsured and uninsured. It means turning our backs on the "sandwich generation," the people who are simultaneously trying to pay for their kids' college education and their parents' elder care.

But if we are to create a more effective system, meaning we have more people who receive assistance, more people who are healthy and more people who have access to quality health care, then the commission's recommendations are unacceptable.

The solution to New York's health care crisis is not as simple as cutting beds or closing hospitals. There are ways to save money and improve our health care system, but the commission's report focuses solely on the latter. I urge all state legislators to reconsider this plan. Fixing our broken system may require sacrificing some nursing homes and hospitals, but it will only be worthwhile if the end result is a healthier New York.

Amy Smardz



Merge Mount St. Mary with Kenmore Mercy

The hospital closing commission seems to be unaware of the past. Mount St. Mary Hospital and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center merged once before. The partnership dissolved because Catholic hospitals do not perform abortions.

Mount St. Mary's is not part of the Catholic Health System. However, if if has to merge with another hospital, it would make more sense for it to join Kenmore Mercy. The two hospitals are not as geographically close as Mount St. Mary's and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. However, they are close in more important ways.

Laurie Glieco



Uniting Buffalo General, ECMC makes no sense

Retiring this past summer, I have become an ardent reader of local newspapers and a listener to local talk radio. Some startling facts have been discussed, leading me to an alarming conclusion.

Erie County Medical Center is a public hospital by design. It is not for profit. In 2008, the subsidy to the hospital ceases from the county and the public benefit corporation stands on its own. The taxpayer obligation to ECMC is zero. But what has the commission recommended? Merging ECMC with Buffalo General and absorbing a Kaleida debt between $24 million and $191 million, depending on who is talking. The taxpayer obligation to the poor and uninsured does not change. As we all know, once a public service is privatized, the opportunity for greed begins.

The bottom line: More taxes to the citizens who will pay for the indigent, poor and uninsured and the new opportunities for unlimited wealth to the corporate hierarchy. Where does this leave the average citizen? Will state lawmakers support their constituents or will they continue to function for big business? I am fearful the answer is big business.

Michael Mahoney



Sharpton promotes the bias he condemns

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and fellow officers of the two Buffalo police officers who were shot in the line of duty on Dec. 5. They are both heroes.

Every police officer puts his life on the line every minute of every shift for our safety. Police, firefighters and teachers should be the highest-paid employees in all cities, including politicians. They also should be given all the support they need, especially two-men squad cars. I also feel badly for the family of the admitted shooter, because it also suffered a loss.

Now I am wondering when the Rev. Al Sharpton will be flying into Buffalo to proclaim his outrage at this latest crime? No, wait. The injured officers are white while the suspect is black. I don't think this color combination is included in the reverend's "selective injustices" committed in our country.

Doesn't Sharpton actually promote the exact stigma he is trying to condemn by only standing up for the wrongs committed by one race on another? Wrong is wrong, no matter the race! My comments are directed to Sharpton, and not to any race. I am praying for those officers.

Michael J. Cullen



Time for judges to get tough on criminals

Now that two police officers have been gunned down -- allegedly by an 18-year-old who is being described by his family and friends as a "good boy" -- will the judicial system finally get tough on these people who have no respect for the law, not to mention life?

The "good boy" charged with this crime was on probation for trying to rob a pizza deliveryman and reportedly was afraid of going to jail for carrying a gun, so he decided to shoot two people trying to protect innocent people from "good boys" with guns.

I know our prisons are overcrowded, so why not build a new prison or two, hire more guards and create more jobs? How many more innocent people have to be shot or killed before tougher laws are enforced? Wake up, Buffalo!

If the suspect is convicted, the judge should do the right thing for Officers Carl Andolina and Patricia Parete and put this man away for life. Don't let him walk someday, because Parete might not.

Dale Michels Sr.



Injured officers put a face on wage freeze

The recent shooting of two Buffalo police officers in the Chippewa District was a typical example of the dangers that officers face. It is only a matter of time before a situation like this happens. Our dedicated police officers deserve our utmost respect and consideration. Growing up on the East Side, I wasn't the best-behaved teenager, but when I had run-ins with the officers, they were always stern but fair.

Officers Patricia Parete and Carl Andolina put a face on the wage freeze. I would love to see the politicians in City Hall dive on a firing criminal to save their co-worker or a Buffalo citizen. It's time we as citizens demand that our elected leaders stop playing politics with our first line of defense against people like Varner Harris, the man charged in the shooting.

Mike Santoro



New approach needed to 'difficult problem'

Former secretary of state James Baker said in his response to the Iraq Study Group, "This is an extraordinarily difficult problem, and unless the country comes together behind a unified approach, we're going to have a tough time dealing with it." How can the country come together on this "difficult problem" when we are not a nation at war?

Oh, we have men and women fighting and dying in this "difficult problem," all right, but it is only volunteers who have to do this, not the nation. Taking away the draft was the worst thing this country has ever done. Now it's up to the volunteers to fight for freedom while others sit back in their easy chair and tip a few brews while enjoying their favorite television sport or sitcom.

We need to come together as a nation in more ways than one, but it won't happen unless we act as one nation, indivisible (can I say under God?). Not as the Republicans versus the Democrats, the haves versus the have-nots, or those called to fight for the freedom of our country versus those who sit back and enjoy the fruits of others' duty and sacrifice.

As of Dec. 13, 2,939 service members have died in this "difficult problem." Thousands more have been injured, mentally as well as physically. Let's not forget about the family and friends affected by this either.

Robert Dommell



Release complete list of artwork to be sold

We have been assured repeatedly by Louis Grachos and the trustees of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery that the deaccession -- art speak for "sellout" -- of 200 art treasures is for our own good. Besides, we are told, these artworks have not been displayed for years. To which my response is: Why? Why do you withhold them and then tell us we don't need them because we never see them?

We -- the members, residents, taxpayers and true owners of the gallery collections -- have the right to expect the following: An immediate public listing of all 200 artworks under consideration. And an immediate special gallery display of all 200 works -- no photos, please.

Grachos and the trustees are accountable to us. Yet without warning, they confronted us with an apparent fait accompli. Well, Shiva is still ours, Artemis, too. Come, let us reason together. Just don't ask us to trust you. We can't.

Barbara D. Holender



Coalition is blocking successful Greenway

We in Western New York often ask the question: How is it that we have, over several decades, failed to develop the waterfront and take advantage of one of the greatest natural assets available to any city anywhere? What mistakes were made? Who or what is to blame?

Like some planetary alignment that shows itself only every few years, we now have a perfect opportunity to view such a mistake as it happens. The self-styled Niagara Power Coalition has said it will reject the proposed Greenway plan because it, in their backward logic, focuses too much on the waterfront and the river!

The politicians and other special interests with their hands in the till in Niagara County would prefer our windfall of money for the Greenway plan be squandered on small, unfocused, pet projects throughout the county. Given the current state of Niagara County and past experience, it is easy to predict what will happen if the coalition gets its way -- the money will be wasted on pork, and on satisfying imaginary short-term budget needs.

What we need is vision and long-term planning, and what we get instead from the "leaders" in Niagara County is narrow self-interest and small-mindedness. In five years, we will all be asking ourselves the same questions again, but at least now we have seen the answer.

Paul Rath

Orchard Park

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