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Doctors gear to seek permit for surgical facility

Two surgeons whose plan for an ambulatory surgery center drew the ire of Eastern Niagara Hospital soon will submit a formal request for a state permit, one of the doctors said last week.

But Great Lakes Surgical Associates trails the hospital, which submitted its own request Jan. 14 to the state Health Department for such a facility.

Dr. Jeffrey Schratz said Friday that he and Dr. Robert Hodge, his partner in Great Lakes Surgical, do not need state permission to move most of their current procedures out of the hospital to their new office on East Avenue in Lockport.

Eastern Niagara Hospital protested Great Lakes' plans in December, just before the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency granted Great Lakes a 10-year property tax break on its newly acquired building.

The hospital argued that the facility proposed by Schratz and Hodge would cost it $1.5 million in revenue per year, but the development agency voted, 6-2, to grant the tax break.

The deal also exempted Great Lakes from paying sales tax on any building materials or equipment used to furnish the building.

Eastern Niagara proposes to spend more than $5.6 million to install an ambulatory surgery facility in its current outpatient center on South Transit Road in the Town of Lockport.

The Health Department staff is reviewing the hospital's request for a certificate of need, as the permit is called.

Schratz said Great Lakes Surgical couldn't submit its own application until architectural renderings and plans were complete. That, he said, could be as early as this week.

No work has been done on the East Avenue building, Schratz said, but he remains hopeful that it can open in six months. It will be able to accommodate colonoscopies and upper endoscopies, which he now performs in Eastern Niagara's Lockport or Newfane facility.

"It was never intended that we would move all of our work out of the hospital," Schratz said. "I ask my patients if they'd like their scope done at Lockport or Newfane. Now I'll [be able to] ask them if they would like to have it done at Lockport, Newfane or our office."

Great Lakes requires a certificate of need only to offer a multispecialty practice with other types of outpatient work, Schratz said.

He said Great Lakes already has heard from ophthalmologists and orthopedic surgeons who are interested in space at their new building.

The hospital's South Transit Road proposal calls for four operating rooms, said Carolyn A. Moore, hospital spokeswoman.

It also hopes to offer orthopedics, ophthalmology and gastrointestinal scopes, along with plastic and general surgery, Moore said.

"This is an excellent location for the center, and the hospital will welcome surgeons from Western New York wishing to expand their services to this facility," said Clare A. Haar, the hospital's chief executive officer.

The Health Department wouldn't comment on whether it would grant certificates for two nearly identical facilities in Lockport.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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