State backs Lakeshore shuttering

It appears the closure of the Lakeshore Hospital campus in Irving has the support of the New York state Health Department.

In an e-mailed response to the OBSERVER, spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said a closure plan for the Irving site was submitted by local officials to the Health Department. The closing of the facility, which will take place on Jan. 1, was announced on Tuesday morning.

“The Brooks-TLC board of directors made the decision to close its TLC campus as part of its long-term sustainability plan and then submitted a closure plan to the department,” Hammond said. “The New York state Department of Health will continue to work with the leadership of Brooks-TLC and the state offices of Mental Health and Addiction Services & Supports to ensure there is no interruption in essential services.”

While the closure eases part of the financial burden for the troubled Brooks-TLC organization, it does not cure all of its woes.

Earlier this month, the OBSERVER detailed the 990 Internal Revenue Service filings by both institutions. While the TLC filings showed a $6 million surplus, President and Chief Executive Officer Mary E. LaRowe noted before the Thanksgiving holiday that those figures did not reveal the full financial picture. Overall, she indicated, the facility was drowning in debt.

It is no different for Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk, which has designs on a new state-of-the-art facility being built in Fredonia at a cost of $70 million — all of which will be funded through the state. Brooks, in 2017, reported losses of $493,050 even after more than $5.5 million was received in the form of state subsidies.

Irving’s operation — in 2019 — was on track to lose $7.1 million, according to media reports. With that being the case, Brooks in Dunkirk appears to be on the way to running a deficit of more than $13 million for this year. Combined, both institutions will total $20 million in losses for this calendar year.

While the Health Department did not indicate in its e-mail whether the state pushed the issue — its investment in both struggling facilities nearly $80 million without even counting the money set aside the new Brooks build — there has been speculation that there was a directive from the state.

Neither LaRowe or Christopher Lanski, chair of the system’s board of directors, made mention of that possibility. But in Lanski’s comments Tuesday, it was obvious something had to occur to stem the mounting losses.

“Closing the TLC Lakeshore Health Center Campus is a difficult decision and we understand the impact on employees and the community,” he said last week. “However, there is no other option and we need to implement this action to ensure a sustainable healthcare system to serve the region, which includes our plans to build a replacement hospital for the former Brooks Memorial Hospital.”

TLC employed 141 full-time and 60 part-time staff. As of Friday afternoon, the state Labor Department had not posted a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice from the hospital. Also known as WARN, the notification — according to the U.S. Labor Department — is to protect workers, their families, and communities by requiring employers with 100 or more employees to provide at least 60 calendar days advance written notice of a plant closing and mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment.

The impending Irving shutdown does not affect The Gowanda Urgent Care and Medical Center or TLC chemical dependency clinics in Derby and Cassadaga, which will remain open.


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