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St. Joseph Hospital suit still alive

The effort to save St. Joseph Hospital got some mixed results in a state appeals court decision issued Wednesday.

The Fourth Department of the State Appellate Division ruled that a state plan calling for the closing of St. Joseph and other hospitals is constitutional.

At the same time, the appeals court ruled that the Cheektowaga hospital can continue its legal fight against the state's plan.

"We note at the outset that the issue whether the commission's recommendation to close St. Joseph was rational is not before us," the appeals court wrote. "Rather, the sole issue before us . . . is whether the Legislation is constitutional, and we conclude that it is."

As part of a state effort to reform New York's health care system, St. Joseph is one of 57 hospitals that are targeted for either closing, restructuring or merging.

In a ruling in February, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph D. Mintz upheld the new state law overhauling the state's network of hospitals and dismissed St. Joseph's lawsuit.

The law allows the implementation of a reform plan by a group known as the Berger Commission. The closing of St. Joseph was one of the recommendations made by the commission last November.

The Catholic Health System, which operates the Cheektowaga hospital, believes it is an important part of the region's health care system and is fighting to prevent the closing.

Kenneth A. Manning, attorney for St. Joseph, said he was still reviewing the decision when contacted late Wednesday and had no immediate comment on it.

The state attorney general's office issued a brief comment.

"Today's decision upholds the constitutionality of the law behind the Berger Commission," said Lee Park, a spokesman for the office.

In Wednesday's decision, the appeals court ruled that the state's efforts to "reconfigure" the state's health care providers through closings and downsizings is a "legitimate public purpose."

But the appeals court also vacated Mintz's dismissal of the lawsuit.


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