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Editorial: DeGraff Memorial Hospital stays relevant

Kaleida Health officials are doing the right thing in re-engineering operations at DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda.

Instead of hewing to a past when hospital beds were full and patient care was delivered without the benefits of current technology, the 104-year-old hospital has been virtually reconstituted.

The opening of a new $7.8 million emergency department should quell local skepticism about the hospital’s future. Following 13 months of construction, the 10,000-square-foot, 17-room department has opened.

Change is sometimes hard.

DeGraff went from a full-service hospital to what officials call a “gateway to the Kaleida system,” as reported in The News. Many local residents were not so keen on the idea. Skepticism often greets any announcement that a hospital will contract in size or close, and protests often follow. There was a fight in the early 2000s over the old Women and Children’s Hospital’s plan to relocate. After an initial plan stalled, the move happened in 2017 with the opening of the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Now Kaleida President and CEO Jody L. Lomeo found himself explaining during the DeGraff emergency department’s ribbon-cutting ceremony what all the fuss was about. As he put it, “We all know it hasn’t been the easiest transition, but I do think in time it will proven to be better, and great for all of our community.”

Kaleida plans on continuing to invest in outpatient services, according to Darcy M. Craven, president of DeGraff and Millard Fillmore Suburban hospitals.

Dr. David Pierce, the chief medical officer for DeGraff and Millard Suburban, explained that the state licenses DeGraff for 60 acute-care beds. Only 10 acute-care beds are in use for patients admitted through the emergency department. Patients who require specialized care are expedited to Millard Fillmore Suburban or Buffalo General Medical Center.

Pierce further explained the trend across the country and how many similarly small hospitals have closed for lack of restructuring how services were provided. This is not what anyone wants for DeGraff, which, besides the emergency department and its nursing home, continues to offer a geriatric clinic, a wound care clinic, radiology and infusion treatments.

The nature of hospital and specialty care is evolving. Change is sometimes difficult, but it is encouraging to see DeGraff change with the times.

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