State Senator Catharine Young released a letter she sent to state Health Department Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, MD Friday to urge him to consider the community's need before allowing Lake Shore Hospital to close.
Young pointed out the larger than average senior population and the lack of access to primary care as reasons for the hospital's importance for the community. She also said winter weather conditions could be an obstacle for patients to be taken an extra 15 miles to the nearest hospital in an emergency.
She asked for answers and urged Shah to consider the impact on the community.
"As you continue to work on this matter, I strongly recommend that you address these questions. Additionally, I ask that you consider the important community impact of this closure. If this facility closes, the health care needs of the area will not only suffer, but the overall economic impact to this community will be devastating. The closure of Lake Shore will have a profound effect on many families in the region, particularly those of the 460 employees of Lake Shore - one of the area's largest employers," she said.
Congressman Tom Reed, in a statement Friday, said he is also keeping up-to-date on the situation.
"The hospital is a critical part of the community and its closure will have a serious impact on jobs and access to care. We are concerned about the employees and patients at the hospital and remain in communication with hospital administrators, local elected officials, and constituents as more information becomes available. Our hope is that a solution can be found that ensures patients have access to the best possible care and is in the best interest of employees - hundreds of jobs are supported by the hospital and we need to do what we can to preserve those critical jobs," he said.
Below is the full text of Young's letter:
Dear Commissioner Shah:
I write to express my deep concerns, once again, to the Department of Health regarding the projected closure of Lake Shore Community Health Care Center slated for January 31, 2014. As I am sure you are aware, the Lake Erie Regional Health System Of New York (LERHSNY), parent of Lake Shore Health Care Center, suddenly announced Oct. 15 that the hospital was scheduled to close. The rapid shuttering of this health care provider creates a huge gap in access to patient care, and jeopardizes the health and safety of the community.
Lake Shore Hospital provides care for patients from Chautauqua, Erie, and Cattaraugus counties with services including, but not limited to, emergency care, ambulatory surgery, home health, behavioral health, cardiac rehabilitation, and long-term care options. This community facility serves as the first point of entry for patients suffering from an acute event to the most significant and complex conditions.
As is the case in many of our rural communities, Lake Shore's service area consists of an aging patient population, with all three counties reporting 16 percent or more of the population age 65 or older. This is in contrast to a state average of approximately 14 percent. Alone, this would increase the demand for medical services in the area, but is further compounded by the lack of primary care practitioners. Chautauqua, Erie, and Cattaraugus counties have all been designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as Medically Underserved Areas for Primary Medical Care. The lack of primary care physicians, coupled with a higher demand for services, makes the availability of other means of care delivery critical.
The challenge of accessing health care services is further complicated by the important geographic considerations of rural New York. Weather is tenuous, and large snowfalls often make driving next to impossible. With the nearest hospital to Lake Shore approximately 15 miles away, the announced closure has the potential to significantly compromise the availability of emergency care, and poses a serious threat to the welfare of the citizens of the community.
The approach to this facility cannot be one of a simple closing. Critical questions need to be asked, and more importantly answered, with respect to the protection of vital services that people in the area need and deserve.
As you continue to work on this matter, I strongly recommend that you address these questions. Additionally, I ask that you consider the important community impact of this closure. If this facility closes, the health care needs of the area will not only suffer, but the overall economic impact to this community will be devastating. The closure of Lake Shore will have a profound effect on many families in the region, particularly those of the 460 employees of Lake Shore - one of the area's largest employers.
I appreciate your assistance in this matter, and look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that the community's best interests are preserved. Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter. If I can be of any assistance, please contact my office at (518) 455-3563.
Catharine M. Young,
Senator, 57th District