It was once a proud tradition for the administration and board of directors at Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk to publish an annual report and hold a meeting regarding its status to the community.
On June 2, 2008, Brooks Hospital held its final annual meeting as a corporation at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in the city. At that time, the transition was already in progress to team with Lake Shore Health Care Center and the TLC Health Network.
During that event, it was reported that Brooks had finished the year with a surplus and work was continuing on forming what is currently known as the Lake Erie Health System of New York after the 2006 Berger Commission report, which called for a severe downsizing of the Lake Shore facility.
"It is coming and it's on a fast track in the state. ... Our two institutions decided we could do a better job than (the Berger Commission) recommended so we have been working on an active parent arrangement for our three facilities (including Tri-County Hospital) to provide even better health care to the residents of Northern Chautauqua and southern Erie counties, and that is moving forward very quickly," said Bruce Ritenburg III, who served then as chair of the Brooks board of trustees.
Not only were the annual meetings a responsible thing to do, but it also assured community stake-holders they were a part of the important institution.
Fast-forward to 2013, and many residents and hospital employees are in a sense of disbelief and disconnect while sorting through the many questions.
How did nobody know TLC Network was in such rotten financial shape?
Why was there no warning, other than two rounds of layoffs, for other workers and the community?
What is the status of the Irving facility, which has now hired an interim chief executive officer?
Unfortunately, in looking back at the Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York years, secrecy reigned. Annual meetings were no longer community events. Annual reports were no longer made available to community members. Former hospital leader Jonathan Lawrence, who was let go in March, was rarely available to staff or community members.
But let's also be honest about Lake Shore's financial struggles. Before Brooks took over the facility, which has revenues that top $50 million annually, New York state forgave millions in debt for the partnership to begin.
Obviously the financial problems that were there before Lake Erie Regional Health System was established still remain if the Irving facility is running a $7 million deficit for 2013.
Over the past two months, OBSERVER city editor Gib Snyder has looked back on the finances of both Lake Shore and Brooks. While the numbers reveal overall surpluses from 2010 and 2011, nobody on the outside looking in at those numbers could have predicted the financial distress the group now faces.
Which brings us back to the accountability. If annual meetings and reports had been held and distributed on a regular basis, maybe residents would be less skeptical or have more trust regarding the current situation.
Lake Erie Regional Health System could begin the healing process by reaching out to those it serves. It could begin with a community meeting.
For that to happen, however, there needs to be leadership. Interim directors, however, are not leaders. They are stopgaps.
Leadership cannot and will not happen until a permanent choice to oversee the overall organization has been made.
Steve Brady of National Grid wanted to respond to an editorial that was published in the OBSERVER last month.
On Nov. 24, our view stated that even though "NRG is not running at full capacity ... the electric rates in this region have increased since August. That's National Grid's deal, not NRG.
NRG is a power producer. National Grid is in the business of delivering that power.
Brady took offense. "We don't control the commodity cost (of electricity)," Brady noted in a phone call this week.
Instead, National Grid does control the delivery rate, which Brady noted has been decreased twice in the last two years by about an average of 8 percent to 10 percent.
Brady said it is typical for electric rates to increase, which they have in the past months, from the summer to fall and then decrease again once the spring season arrives.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.