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Kaleida set on embracing reform plan

When Kaleida Health officials received the state hospital commission's recommendations to close, downscale and merge its hospitals, they called in their lawyers who found 16 different ways to legally challenge the report.

But Kaleida isn't suing. In fact, the region's largest health care network is publicly promising to do its part to meet the state recommendations now that the report becomes law as of today.

It all boils down to money. A total of $2.5 billion has been pledged by the state and federal government to reform the state's health care system. Kaleida officials say they want to come up with a plan that will ensure their hospital system gets its fair share, and they want get started quickly so the available money doesn't get eaten up by downstate hospitals.

"If we don't start talking about being in a plan and a vision for Western New York under this reform period or timeline, those things are going to disappear," said Kaleida spokesman Michael Hughes.

The state commission report recommends that Kaleida close Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo, convert DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda into a nursing facility, and merge Buffalo General Hospital and Erie County Medical Center.

"I applaud Kaleida on their approach to this," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo.

Though Kaleida President James R. Kaskie promised no layoffs resulting from the commission mandates, union leaders and employees at the affected hospitals have vigorously campaigned against the recommendations.

Kaskie, however, said he intends to move forward "to make something positive happen for our community."

Tom Quatroche, spokesman for ECMC, said Kaleida's stance comes as welcome news. Leaders for ECMC and Kaleida have had on-again-off-again discussions for years about merging. Both sides say they're committed to working together again to pull together a merger plan, though numerous obstacles remain.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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