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Community rallies support for threatened Eastern Niagara Hospital in Newfane

Eastern Niagara Hospital hasn’t decided if it is closing the Newfane facilty.

But a few hundred people who believe otherwise turned out in Newfane Saturday to show Eastern Niagara how important the hospital is to the community.

“That was the biggest point,” Newfane Supervisor Timothy Horanburg said. “I think we made our voice heard.”

Horanburg spearheaded the rally at the Miller Hose Fire Company, after hospital CEO Clare Haar met earlier this month with town supervisors from northern Niagara County to discuss financial setbacks and a rash of employee layoffs.

“We haven’t been told they are going to close, but all indications are they are moving in that direction,” said Wilson Supervisor Joseph Jastrzemski.

“There have been a number of layoffs and services have been cut,” Jastrzemski said. “When you’re doing those two things they’re being put in a position not to be able to survive.”

It is a troubling scenario for residents who rely on the 63-bed hospital, formerly known as the Inter-Community Memorial Hospital of Newfane.

“There are a lot of people that go there. Where would they go?” said Cynthia Culverwell, 47, of Burt. “Lockport is like 20 or 30 minutes away. It could be a matter of life and death.”

Culverwell was among those who packed the fire company Saturday to hear the latest about the situation from their elected officials. Those in attendance included Horanburg; Jastrzemski; State Sen. George Maziarz; Somerset Supervisor Daniel Engert; Cambria Supervisor Wright Ellis; Hartland Supervisor W. Ross Annable; and Niagara County Legislator John Syracuse.

Officials have asked to meet with the hospital’s board of directors early next week to discuss bringing in a consultant to study the future of the hospital, Horanburg said. The goal would be to keep open the Newfane hospital on William Street, as well as the 134-bed hospital on East Avenue in Lockport – both managed by Eastern Niagara Health System.

“It’s a very, very important part of our community and we will do everything in our power to keep that hospital open,” Jastrzemski said.

Doug Sherwood, 50, of Newfane, was encouraged by what he heard from officials.

“The people who spoke today said they’re going to try to do their best to prevent it from closing,” Sherwood said. “I’m just hoping it’s not a lot of politicians blowing smoke. I don’t know if they have the power to do it. The dollar bills are what ultimately have the power.”

While the hospital appreciates the support from the community, and understands the concerns, these are challenging fiscal times for all hospitals, said Carolyn Moore, a spokeswoman for Eastern Niagara Hospital.

“ENH continues to evaluate opportunities to allocate resources in the most efficient manner possible according to the utilization of services by patients,” Moore said in a prepared statement.

“No decisions have been made,” she said. “Our goal is to meet the community’s health care needs with an array of services throughout the eastern Niagara County region.”