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Four local hospitals share $65M more in federal Covid-19 aid, but ECMC left out

Four Buffalo area hospitals will share another $65 million in federal funding for health care facilities hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, under a new round of funding announced Sunday by Rep. Brian Higgins.

They included:

• $24 million for Sisters Hospital in Buffalo

• $15.58 million for Buffalo General Medical Center in Buffalo

• $14.81 million for Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst

• $11.04 million for Mercy Hospital of Buffalo

The four hospitals are among 395 nationwide that received money from the Department of Health and Human Services through a newly released allocation of "hot spot" funding. The pool included $10 billion for rural hospitals and $12 billion for hospitals with high Covid admissions, according to Higgins, D-Buffalo.

Officials at Erie County Medical Center – the region's only Level 1 adult trauma hospital, which has also dealt with a large volume of patients – were upset at not being included, given that the funds are "ostensibly appropriated for hospitals, like ECMC, who have been hit hard financially by the Covid-19 pandemic," said spokesman Peter Cutler.

“There is no doubt that every hospital in the region has overextended its resources to care for those have fallen ill due to coronavirus and to keep our front-line health care workers equipped and protected,” said Higgins. “This distribution is specifically directed to the hospitals that served the highest number of patients in the early stages of the pandemic. We will continue to fight for additional health care resources to save lives.”

The four Buffalo area hospitals that received the money provided inpatient care to at least 100 Covid-19 patients through April 10. Two are owned by Kaleida Health, while the other two are part of Catholic Health System.

“Since the pandemic hit, Congressman Higgins has been relentless in his pursuit to help the hospitals here in our community,” said Jody Lomeo, president and CEO of Kaleida Health. “While we have been rightly focused on taking care of our patients and keeping our employees safe, these much-needed dollars will help us rebuild the financial health of our organization which has been battered by Covid-19. We are grateful for his leadership and thank the entire New York State congressional delegation for ensuring hotspot funding for Western New York.”

[Related: Local hospitals to share $1.4 billion in federal aid]

In a news release, ECMC – which described itself as "a frontline urban safety net hospital" – said it had "responded quickly" to the pandemic and "immediately expanded its capability" to handle Covid-19 patients. And it noted it has suffered "devastating" impacts to its revenues and finances, with a $29 million loss through April 30, because of increased expenses for purchasing supplies and personal protective equipment, as well as higher "premium pay" for staff. It also saw revenues drop because it couldn't do elective surgeries.

Yet, the hospital complained, it did not receive any federal dollars in the current round – and only $11.5 million previously – because it did not have more than 100 patient admissions from Jan. 1 through April 10, the cutoff date for the money. It hit that mark afterwards, and counting the weeks since then, ECMC has admitted 156 patients since March 16, and currently has 33 patients, with 10 on ventilators.

Meanwhile, it noted, the two Kaleida hospitals got $30.4 million, while Catholic Health received $35 million.

“It is inconceivable that no relief funds were provided to ECMC in the latest round of federal funding designed to help severely affected hospitals struggling with the impact of the pandemic," said ECMC President and CEO Thomas J. Quatroche Jr. "Hospitals like ECMC, who take care of some of the poorest and most vulnerable citizens in our community, have been left behind significantly in these appropriations.”

The funds represent the latest money to flow to the region from the federal CARES Act, which was passed by Congress on March 27, with $100 billion to support hospitals and health care providers – including $10 billion prioritized for hot spots. The first $30 billion was distributed April 10, followed by another $20 billion April 24, and now another $22 billion.

New York hospitals received $2.475 billion of the total from the first two distributions – including $71.87 million for 11 area hospitals in Erie and Niagara counties.

More than one-third, or $25.45 million, of that earlier funding went to Kaleida's Buffalo General, Millard Fillmore and DeGraff Memorial Hospital, while Catholic Health got $18.2 million for Sisters, Mercy and Kenmore Mercy hospitals. Another $11.86 million went to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and $11.46 million went to ECMC.

The rest was shared by Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, Mount St. Mary's Hospital and Eastern Niagara Hospital.

ECMC also said that the federal government has not "based any of its funding to hospitals on Medicaid, so that states like New York do not receive the funding it needs." And it urged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to ensure that providers like ECMC that serve a high Medicaid and low-income population get much of the remaining dollars.

“We urge our federal representatives to ensure that ECMC, as well as our partner safety net hospitals across the country, receive funding from the remaining appropriation from the Provider Relief Fund and we urge our federal representatives to demand that the Department of Health and Human Services dedicate $20 billion of the fund for safety net hospitals like ECMC," said ECMC Chairman Jonathan A. Dandes. "It is only right that ECMC and other safety net hospitals receive the same support from the federal government as those hospitals that were funded initially."

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