IRVING - It has been nearly five months since it was announced Lake Shore Health Care Center would close, but hospital officials are still hopeful for a sale.
In October, the hospital filed a closure plan with the state Department of Health and announced its intention to sell the facility.
Shortly after, a group led by local businessman Tony Borrello submitted a bid to purchase the hospital. This initial bid was later rejected by the Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York board.
However, according to TLC's Interim CEO John Galati, the group has been working toward another proposal.
In an interview in late January, Galati said there were two interested parties in the hospital. This past week, he said the same is true now.
"The first is the local consortium and basically right now they have completed as far as their data gathering from their due diligence. I think they will be taking the month now to determine what their role will be, if at all any. So they are going to look at their level of participation, determine and provide us with at least a proposal. We anticipate that should be done sometime around the month-end.
"The other group, the outside group, they actually did an on-site visit, after which they actually changed their perspective of a purchase to more of offering consultation for a turn-around. ... We went back to them and said, 'That's not really what we are looking for, we really need to get cash with a purchase so that we can get out of bankruptcy and then look at reorganization.' So they are going back to revisit their proposal to try to address our need," he explained, adding the outside group had the wrong impression of the level of operation before its visit.
Galati noted there have been more interested parties in leasing portions of the hospital, but it is TLC's goal to sell the entire operation, not pieces.
"Our main goal is still to keep things together and not parcel items off for sale. We want to keep it together so a new owner or operator can determine what services they'd provide going forward," he said.
In December 2013, TLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The hospital has met every two weeks with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Carl L. Bucki since then. Recently, the court approved an appraisal of the facility.
Galati explained this was to determine the fair market value of the facility and equipment for a sale.
"From the standpoint of the courts we have to have a fair market value for items we have that could be purchased or for a sale. Right now the assessment has been used as the valuation ... that sometimes doesn't reflect the fair market value. So whether a purchaser comes in and we have to know what we are selling the items for or if there is an asset sale then we have to price (items) at fair market value," he said.
According to Galati, in addition to the courts monitoring the hospital's finances, it also monitors the level of care provided during this process. He said the court-appointed registered nurse has made many visits to the facility and has followed up with patients.
"She comes regularly and basically has been pleased with the facility; how it looks, how we function and the care that is being provided," he added.
Also recently approved by the court was an interim order for the hospital to borrow $1 million from the Dormitory Authority of New York state (DASNY). Galati said this will help the hospital stay open for a few more months.
"With that infusion we anticipate, with no other major events occurring, it could probably take us to the end of May or the first part of June," he explained.
Galati said they are still aiming for a seamless sale.
"Hopefully things will fall into place with the purchasers (submitting a proposal) by the end of March, early April. So, then we would probably be able to transcend into a different setup, we hope," Galati said.
Galati said at this point a closure date has not been set for the hospital and aside from long-term skilled nursing care and the Conewango clinic, all of the hospital's and clinics' services are open and able to be taken advantage of by the public.
He added that since October the hospital has laid off about 150 workers, bringing its staffing down to about 300 employees, but this has not affected the services the hospital provides.
"We have been staffing to census, so whatever our volume is, we have been staffing to. There have been some layoffs that did occur. Most of that was on the long-term care side but basically we are staffed," he said.
Galati said they continue to hear people say they thought Lake Shore has closed, but he wanted to let the community know that services like primary and emergency care, surgery, diagnostics and more are still being offered at Lake Shore as well as the Gowanda, Forestville, Cassadaga and Derby clinics.
"We want you to know if you are coming to TLC, you are going to get friendly, confident and timely care and those are the major important things to the patients of this community and that's what we are delivering every day. So, our goal is to keep that up as long as possible and we want the community to take full advantage of that," TLC Divisional Director of Business Development Scott Butler added.
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