LOCKPORT – Eastern Niagara Hospital announced Friday that it has entered what its board chairman called “a clinical affiliation” with Kaleida Health, the Buffalo-based hospital network, making more doctors and services available to patients.
Eastern Niagara’s management and board of directors will remain in place, and no money is changing hands between the hospitals.
“It’s not a merger or an acquisition,” Kaleida spokesman Michael Hughes said. “There’s no financial implication.”
“We’re maintaining the integrity of our institution,” said George V.C. Muscato, chairman of the Eastern Niagara board, which approved the arrangement March 22.
Last month, Eastern Niagara received a $3.7 million state grant for debt restructuring and financial stabilization, and Lockport residents, doctors and nurses involved with a local group called “Save ENH” have been agitating for the ouster of the board and the CEO, Clare A. Haar.
Lockport Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey called Friday’s news “a step in the right direction.” She added, “I think the community will be glad to see Kaleida’s input, and I think it’s good for Lockport.”
Muscato said if the Lockport hospital gets into financial trouble again, as it did when it nearly went bankrupt in 1999, Kaleida is not committed to bailing it out.
The main point of the deal, Muscato said, is to give patients “the ability to access doctors in more specialties, and primary care doctors … One of the problems we have in an area such as Niagara County is attracting doctors who want to live and practice medicine in Niagara County. Kaleida has a great deal of access to doctors coming out of the University of Buffalo.”
“The idea is to help health care remain local,” Hughes said. Kaleida last month announced similar affiliations with Lake Shore Health Care Center in Irving and Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk. Catholic Health System, the other major player in the Western New York hospital picture, has an affiliation with Medina Memorial Hospital.
“We’ve been looking at affiliations for years,” Muscato said. “In an effort to constantly explore improving our health delivery system, you can’t ignore that there are larger hospital systems that have resources we don’t have.”
In particular, Hughes said, Eastern Niagara patients will have more access to specialized Kaleida offerings such as the Gates Vascular Institute for heart and stroke care.
Dr. Madhav Deshmukh, president of the medical staff at Eastern Niagara, said, “The medical staff has a long history of respect for the tertiary services provided by Kaleida Health in this region. As practicing physicians, we look forward to the clinic collaboration benefits that an affiliation will bring to Eastern Niagara Hospital.”
Muscato said, “The administrations of the two hospitals will decide how it will work.”
By beefing up the number of physicians available to the 134-bed Lockport facility, revenue to the hospital could increase, he said.
Eastern Niagara Hospital was created in 2000 through a merger of Lockport Memorial Hospital and Inter-Community Memorial Hospital in Newfane. In 2014, the Newfane facility stopped offering acute care beds, and last month, its emergency room also was shut, leaving only urgent care, laboratory and X-ray facilities. At the time, hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Moore said Eastern Niagara was losing $1.5 million a year on the Newfane emergency room.