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TLC/Lake Shore Health Care Center in Irving is closing

The TLC/Lake Shore Health Care Center campus in Irving will close Jan. 1, reflecting the growing financial pressure that smaller hospitals are facing.

The Brooks-TLC Hospital System board of directors said the decision stemmed from rising financial losses at the Irving campus.

"Simply put, patient volume is too low to maintain services and cover the cost of operating the campus," said Christopher Lanski, the board chairman.

The shutdown will affect all services at the Irving campus, including outpatient and support services, as well as inpatient behavioral health services and chemical dependency services. The ultimate timing of the closing will depend on patient transfer arrangements.

The hospital system said the shutdown will not affect the Gowanda Urgent Care and Medical Center, or TLC chemical dependency clinics in Derby and Cassadaga.

The Irving campus closing will affect 141 full-time and 60 part-time employees. Consistent with terms of the labor agreement, efforts will be made to move affected employees into other open positions in the hospital system, said Mary LaRowe, president and CEO of Brooks-TLC Hospital System.

LaRowe said the Irving campus faced pressures on a number of fronts. She noted that Medicare and Medicaid do not always cover the full cost of patient care. And she cited other factors: decreasing hospital use, a declining population in the service area, continuing cuts in state and federal reimbursement, claims denials and challenges in recruiting staff.

Put together all of those factors, "and it's clear why we can no longer operate in the same way," she said.

Lanski said annual operating losses for the past few years have been funded through the State Department of Health for the past few years, but such funding is not sustainable for the future. The operating loss for this year is projected at $7.1 million.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, expressed concerns about the timing of the closing, and the impact on patients and employees.

"I am greatly concerned that Lake Shore's sudden closure, without a reasonable transition period, will negatively impact patient care and the communities in the region that rely on it for emergency services," he said.

Borrello said he was also "deeply concerned" about the affected employees, "whose livelihoods have suddenly been placed in jeopardy. The Jan. 1 planned closure will not offer adequate time for these workers to find comparable employment."

Brooks-TLC is not alone in facing these types of challenges. Eastern Niagara Hospital closed a Newfane location that had been reduced to an urgent care facility. Effective Jan. 1, DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda will transfer its inpatient care services to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, but its emergency department will remain open.

Brooks-TLC cited statistics that in less than a decade, 90 rural hospitals have closed nationally, and that according to one study, nearly 700 rural hospitals are vulnerable to shutdown within the next 10 years.

No decisions have been made about the future use of the Irving campus after it closes, LaRowe said.

Separately, Brooks-TLC Hospital System is building a hospital in Fredonia that will replace an aging facility in Dunkirk. The new hospital is scheduled to open in 2021.


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