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Kaleida to link with Dunkirk hospital, nears deal with Irving facility

Kaleida Health will affiliate with Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk and is close to a similar arrangement with TLC Health Network in Irving.

The organizations announced the arrangements Friday after the state awarded a $57 million grant to help with restructuring the smaller hospitals, both of which have struggled financially in recent years.

Brooks Memorial will terminate its affiliation agreement with UPMC Hamot in Erie, Pa., to partner with Kaleida Health, while TLC Health Network, the parent of Lake Shore Health Care Center, will make the affiliation official once it emerges from bankruptcy, officials said.

Representatives at the two Southern Tier hospitals and Kaleida Health said they have yet to flesh out in detail how the affiliation will work, but plan to do so now that an agreement has been reached.

“Our board believes the partnership with Kaleida Health will help Brooks transform the way it delivers care,” Christopher Lanski, chairman of the Brooks board of directors, said in a statement. “The opportunity is to be connected to a larger, local health system that is community-focused yet maintains a very large footprint across Western New York.”

Jody Lomeo, chief executive officer of Kaleida, said, “Our goal is to collaborate and enhance care for the residents of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties while improving access to the Kaleida Health system.”

The Brooks board approved the decision to terminate its management and employee lease agreements with UPMC Hamot at a recent meeting. The Kaleida Health board approved the affiliations last month.

The 65-bed Brooks, which serves primarily northern Chautauqua County, and 25-bed Lake Shore Health Care, located 25 miles away nearer the Erie County border, previously operated as part of the Lake Erie Regional Health System. But they dissolved the umbrella entity in 2014 to go their separate ways.

Like other smaller hospitals in more rural areas, they have experienced difficulties as a result of declining and aging populations, problems recruiting physicians, and updating facilities and equipment. The challenges have led to a host of affiliations and mergers in Western New York in the past decade, as the facilities turned to larger health systems for financial support or help with recruiting doctors and providing specialty services.

In a statement, State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, stressed the significance of the state grant to making the deal happen. “Saving Brooks and Lake Shore from closing has been a long and difficult endeavor that now has been won,” she said.

The grant came from the state’s Essential Healthcare Provider Support Program, which was created to help financially stressed healthcare organizations with debt retirement, capital projects and other reorganization initiatives.