Leaders from Kaleida Health, Brooks Memorial Hospital and Lake Shore Health Care Center say they are making progress in planning for affiliations that will help place the smaller institutions on sound financial footing while extending the Buffalo-based health-care system’s reach into northern Chautauqua County and southern Erie County.
Officials from the institutions on Tuesday met with stakeholders from the Dunkirk, Fredonia and Irving communities to talk about how Kaleida Health’s affiliation with Brooks Memorial and its proposed affiliation with Lake Shore, both announced in March, are proceeding and how they believe those agreements will benefit with region.
Administrators from the three hospitals have spent the past four months working out which programs will continue to be offered at Brooks in Dunkirk and at Lake Shore in Irving, which new construction or renovation work will be performed at the two facilities and how the two hospitals will be operated under joint leadership going forward.
“They’ve been looking at the strengths of each of their campuses, and then the strengths of Kaleida Health, and they’ve worked together to develop a vision for how to best to meet the community needs,” Donald Boyd, executive vice president for business development and affiliations at Kaleida Health, said in an interview.
Kaleida Health’s announcement in March that it had reached an affiliation agreement with Brooks Memorial Hospital and that it planned to do the same with Lake Shore Health Care Center was the first of several the system has made this year revealing partnerships with smaller, rural health-care centers. The system later disclosed similar arrangements with Eastern Niagara Hospital; Upper Allegheny Health System, which includes Olean General Hospital; and Cuba Memorial Hospital.
As with Catholic Health System, Rochester Regional Health and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, all of which have or had affiliation agreements with small hospitals in Western New York, Kaleida Health would benefit by bringing in patients for specialty medical programs that aren’t available at the rural hospitals.
Brooks Memorial and Lake Shore, like other smaller hospitals in more rural areas, have experienced difficulties as a result of declining and aging populations, problems recruiting physicians, and updating facilities and equipment. They’ve turned to the larger health systems for financial assistance or for help with recruiting doctors and providing specialty services.
“I think in today’s world, rural hospitals just can’t remain alone. There just aren’t the resources to do that,” said John Galati, CEO of TLC Health Network, Lake Shore’s parent.
The 65-bed Brooks, which serves primarily northern Chautauqua County, and 25-bed Lake Shore Health Care, located 25 miles away closer to 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.
Brooks Memorial will terminate its affiliation agreement with UPMC Hamot in Erie, Pa., to partner with Kaleida Health, while TLC Health, the parent of Lake Shore, will make the affiliation official once it emerges from bankruptcy, officials said.
Officials from the hospitals and Kaleida Health met in Chautauqua County on Tuesday with elected officials, labor leaders, members of the media and members of the business community. They said:
• The hospitals still are figuring how they will spend $57 million the state is providing to Brooks Memorial and Lake Shore to help restructure the smaller hospitals, Boyd said. The grant came from the state’s Essential Healthcare Provider Support Program, which was set up to help financially stressed healthcare entities with debt retirement, capital projects and other reorganization initiatives.
• Brooks Memorial will offer more traditional, inpatient medical and surgical programs, while Lake Shore will evolve to offer more outpatient services and specialty services, along with its focus on inpatient chemical dependency and inpatient neurobehavioral health. Lake Shore will continue to have an emergency department, Boyd said.
• Brooks and Lake Shore will have coordinated operations, where they don’t compete, but instead try to serve an outpatient populations and different markets, Galati said, with Lake Shore targeting Irving, the Southtowns and nearby Cattaraugus County. “We’re trying to keep one system, two campuses,” he said.
• Brooks will see construction of a new facility, including surgical suites and imaging labs, though the size, cost and location of the facility are yet to be determined. At Lake Shore, any construction is likely to be renovation work of existing facilities, Boyd and Galati said.
• Lake Shore’s parent TLC Health Network is expected to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the end of the year.