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ECMC needs Washington's help, too

As the region’s only Level 1 adult trauma hospital, Erie County Medical Center can be considered a "hot spot," even on its lowest-admission day. The same holds doubly true in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, with residents in the 14215 ZIP code falling victim to Covid-19.

So, it came as an unwelcome surprise to hospital officials – and perhaps anyone dependent upon the facility – that it received no money from the Department of Health and Human Services through a newly released allocation of “hot spot” funding. It needs that help, now.

Four area hospitals did get funding. They are:

• Sisters Hospital in Buffalo, $24 million

• Buffalo General Medical Center in Buffalo, $15.58 million

• Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst, $14.81 million

• Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, $11.04 million

The DOH hot spot funding went to 395 hospitals nationwide. The pool included $10 billion for rural hospitals and $12 billion for hospitals with high Covid-19 admissions, according to Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. Hospital officials have reached out to Higgins, along with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both D-N.Y.

Stringent guidelines bordering on technicality cost the hospital. As the region’s only Level 1 adult trauma hospital, handles a large volume of patients, but timing hurt its bid. Each of the four Buffalo area hospitals that received funding provided inpatient care to at least 100 Covid-19 patients through April 10.

During that same period, though, ECMC fell below the threshold, providing inpatient care to 70 Covid-19 patients. Its numbers rose significantly following that cutoff and, being located in the poverty-stricken 14215 ZIP code, its Covid-19 ward filled.

ECMC says it has suffered “devastating” harm to its finances as a result, with losses of $29 million through April 30. As other hospitals, its revenues fell because it was prohibited from performing elective surgeries.

ECMC delivers critical care in a high-needs neighborhood. At last report, it held 157 patients with Covid-19, had discharged 90 and recorded the deaths of 33. The hospital’s 12th floor, set aside for Covid-19 patients, has been documented by News photographer Sharon Cantillon and reporter Tim O’Shei.

Just as in other hospitals, many nurses volunteered to work on the ward. Some got sick themselves, recovered and returned to duty.

This makes no sense. ECMC is surely a hot spot and the timing of its patient influx can’t be the reason to put its financial health at risk. Washington needs to reconsider.

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