Westfield Memorial Hospital officially acute care hospital

WESTFIELD – It’s been a long and tiring road, but after five years, Westfield Memorial Hospital as been officially re-established as an acute care hospital with their new, perpetual, Article 28 designation.

According to hospital representatives, about six years ago the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, or the Berger Commission, had a goal in mind of reforming New York’s health care system in order to improve quality and affordability and to make it more responsive to current health care needs.

So New York state hopsitals were inventoried to look at their bed capacities, services, operations, and more. No hospital was left unscrutinized, including WMH which, after it was studied, was given a five-year limited life operating certificate in 2011.

“At that time, when that occurred, they looked at the Chautauqua area. Specific to Westfield, this was originally a 32-bed facility that offered pretty standard services. Surgery, OBGYN, pediatrics … pretty much everything,” said Patty Ballman, WMH’s hospital administrator.

“At that time of the assessment, for whatever the reason, there was a mandate by the Berger Commission to turn the facility into a diagnostic treatment center, which would mean it’s not really a hospital – it’s not a licensed, Article 28 hospital. … At that time there was a huge campaign, and the community, as well as Westfield Memorial Hospital, put great efforts into convincing the state of New York that this may not be the right thing to do.”

The mandate was made, and shortly thereafter it was reversed, and WMH was instead handed the limited life operating certificate, which gave the hospital five years of restricted services to look at its health care system and find ways to make improvements and provide their services more effectively to the community.

“There was an effort to collaborate,” said Ballman. “We said, ‘rather than have people mandate what you do, let’s pull together and say, what kind of health care can we create?’ That did not work out, so then that left Westfield with St. Vincent, and St. Vincent is the co-operator of Westfield Memorial Hospital, so at that time there was not the appetite to collaborate in the county area.”

The people at WMH sat around a table and asked, “What can we do?” After all, this license was only for five years, and if improvements and changes weren’t made, the hospital would close its doors for good.

They first considered the fact that a lot of accommodations had to be made for the fact that Westfield and surrounding areas are an agricultural community, which could present a lot of dangers to those who live there – so having a limited life operating license, or no hospital at all, wasn’t really an option.

“Agriculture is a dangerous occupation. It’s dangerous, with moving parts on the farms, and people get injured. There’s a lot of materials that can be toxic to the human body. and so it’s essential that we have someplace that is fairly close for all of these dairy and grape farms,” said Ballman.

During those limited five years, WMH really collaborated to look at how it was doing in many areas – how are they doing clinically? In terms of quality? How are they doing financially? Are they meeting the needs of the community? Is there still a void in the community and if there is, what is it?

“So over the last five years, Westfield has really taken that Berger Commission mandate of downsizing from 32 beds to four inpatient beds, looked at the cost evolution of health care and really created a health facility that truly meets the needs of the community,” said Ballman. “We’ve taken the space of the facility and re-purposed it into a more outpatient-type facility, which is really what health care is now.”

WMH has done what other hospitals are currently struggling with, and now it’s looking head at the future to say, what does the Westfield community need?

“The community is very fond of this facility. … To actually have this back again is a bright star in the Westfield community,” gushed Ballman.