By JULIE MINDA
Catholic Health of Buffalo, New York, expects to begin construction this month on a hospital in Lockport, New York, that will preserve health care services in that community. Lockport's sole hospital is in bankruptcy proceedings and plans to close in phases when the new hospital opens, likely in the spring of 2023.
A rendering of the hospital that will anchor the Lockport Memorial Campus of Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lockport, New York. Catholic Health plans to open the hospital sometime in 2023 with 10 inpatient beds and shelled space for quick expansion.
The new hospital — Lockport Memorial Campus of Mount St. Mary's Hospital — will be a campus of Catholic Health's Mount St. Mary's Hospital of Lewiston, New York. Lewiston is about 20 miles west of Lockport.
The plans are the product of ongoing talks between Catholic Health and Eastern Niagara Health System. Catholic Health currently manages Eastern Niagara Health System's Eastern Niagara Hospital. That not-for-profit Lockport community hospital has an emergency department, acute care, cardiac services, diagnostic imaging and an inpatient chemical dependency treatment unit.
In a building it leases from Catholic Health, Eastern Niagara also operates an outpatient facility. When Eastern Niagara Hospital closes, Catholic Health will take over operation of the urgent care and ambulatory surgery center, occupational medicine and diagnostic services housed there.
Eastern Niagara Hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2019, and its board subsequently agreed to partner with Catholic Health on a management agreement that will preserve services at Eastern Niagara Hospital until the new hospital, which the partners are calling a "neighborhood hospital," opens.
Joyce Markiewicz is Catholic Health executive vice president and chief business development officer. She says that Catholic Health will invite representation in facility governance for the new hospital from Eastern Niagara Hospital and it will employ staff from the hospital at the new Catholic Health hospital.
Eastern Niagara has reduced inpatient services and capacity over the years and the facility currently staffs 20 beds.
The new Catholic Health hospital will be about 62,000 square feet and will open with 10 private inpatient beds. Shelled space for an additional 10 beds will allow for quick expansion based on demand. Markiewicz says if inpatient volumes rise, "Catholic Health will build additional inpatient rooms in the available space, saving time and providing the flexibility that is needed, resulting from the effects of the pandemic."
Markiewicz says Eastern Niagara Hospital will close in phases as the new campus opens. Lockport Memorial Campus of Mount St. Mary's Hospital will function as part of a Catholic Health continuum that includes Catholic Health's five hospital campuses. The new campus will have emergency, inpatient, imaging and laboratory services. It also will have medical office space for primary care, women's health and specialty medical practices.
In a press release on the hospital, Catholic Health President and Chief Executive Mark Sullivan says Catholic Health's goal is to provide a state-of-the-art facility that will preserve health care for the more than 80,000 residents of the greater Lockport area.
The New York State Department of Health's Public Health and Health Planning Council approved the certificate of need for the new campus in July.
The state health department has awarded Catholic Health and Eastern Niagara Health System $18 million in "vital access provider" funding. Sullivan says in a press release that the funding will help finance the redesign of the health care delivery system into a sustainable model for the long term, while also providing financial stability during that transformation.
An apple a day
One of the parcels in the new campus is home to the locally popular Hall's Apple Farm. Five generations of the family have lived and worked on the site and the patriarch is somewhat of a folk hero, says Markiewicz. The family will retain a portion of the land to operate a market and bakery. The call during which Catholic Health leadership and the Hall family discussed this arrangement was emotional "on all sides because the Hall family, like Catholic Health, was humbled and honored to play a role in creating something so vital for Niagara County residents on land that was such an important part of their family and the history of this community," Markiewicz says.
The Lockport investments come as Catholic Health jumpstarts a strategic plan it had put on pause when COVID hit. The system intends to create regional centers of excellence across Catholic Health's Western New York footprint.
The strategic plan includes:
- At Mercy Hospital of Buffalo: maintaining comprehensive cardiac and stroke services and growing neuroscience services.
- At Sisters of Charity Hospital's main Buffalo campus: expanding vascular, bariatric and women's services.
- At Kenmore Mercy Hospital of Kenmore: growing orthopedic services.
- At Sisters of Charity Hospital's St. Joseph Campus: growing orthopedic services.
St. Joseph Campus had experienced declining inpatient volumes and increasing ambulatory care volumes prior to coronavirus' onset. Early in the pandemic the facility was reset as a COVID hospital. After COVID rates fell in late March, St. Joseph reopened the campus with a primary focus on ambulatory care and orthopedic surgery.
St. Joseph reopened its emergency department in early June, but with no intensive care unit and few inpatient beds, emergency patients who require higher acuity inpatient care are stabilized and transferred to another Catholic Health hospital.
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