IRVING, N.Y. (WIVB) - From the beginning, there has been a cloud of suspicion over the announced shutdown of Lake Shore Health Center in Irving, where some believe money meant to help keep the hospital alive went down the drain.
Now a new campaign, headed by concerned citizens and hospital staff members, is underway to keep the facility open. They are circulating a petition to save the Lake Shore Health Care Center, arguing the closure would "have a devastating effect" on the region, with consequences that would be "disastrous."
It urges the Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York to postpone and reconsider their plans to close Lake Shore.
One concerned citizen said, "Basically you're putting not only 460 employees out of work, but you're endangering the welfare and the lives of people who live here that depend on this hospital for services."
News 4 has learned that in the last few years, the facility spent $4.6 million upgrading its record keeping system, $1.9 million renovating its emergency room and recently ordered a million dollars of equipment, which staffers believe is likely to be shipped to Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk.
A staff member told News 4, "If the emergency room is closed, it begs the question why was this money spent, if this closing was going to happen? Literally, the completion may have been in the last several months."
Staff members in the hospital say they believe there is a deliberate effort to force patients who need major attention to first be be transported to Brooks, and then to Hamot Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, which is affiliated with Brooks, and controlled by the giant UPMC health care network. They believe Hamot is trying to take over health care in Chautauqua County.
"[To] increase their business. Take the patient population from southern Chautauqua County and drive it over to Pennsylvania so they would have increased revenue from all the people that need services," the concerned citizen said.
The staff member added, "There has been an effort to sort of monopolize the region. I think this is part of that."
A spokesperson for UPMC Hamot said the decision to close Lake Shore was made by the Lake Erie Regional Health System.
Scott Butler, Director of Community Relations for the Lake Erie Regional Health System, released the following statement:
"Closing Lake Shore Health Care Center was the sole decision of Lake Erie Regional Health System's Board of Directors and was made in an effort to stop the hospital's deteriorating financial condition from negatively impacting the rest of the system's ability to provide high quality care for our patients. The decision had absolutely nothing to do with any potential gains for UPMC Hamot, and we adamantly refute any claims to the contrary."
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