LOCKPORT N.Y. (WIVB) – The Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport is set to close in June, and first responders are concerned with how much longer it’ll take to drive patients to an emergency room.

First responders for the Lockport Fire Department says it takes them about three to four minutes to bring patients in need of medical attention to the emergency room, but once the hospital closes, the nearest one is more than 20 minutes away.

“Anywhere in the city of Lockport is a three minute ambulance ride to get to this emergency room,” said city of Lockport common council president Paul Beakman. “Now that that’s being taken away, that three minute ambulance ride now turns into a half hour to get to Mount Saint Mary’s, Medina, Millard Fillmore Suburban. As a retired police officer, I know that minutes count and it truly a situation where it’s going to be a matter of life and death.”

News spoke to Lockport Fire Chief Luca Quagliano and he stresses that minutes matter when people are in cardiac arrest, or need medical care from a hospital. He says on average they answer around 10 ambulance calls a day and half of those patients are taken to ENH.

“Although I don’t want to predict or wish this among anybody just don’t see how this doesn’t negatively effect the outcome of certain patients,” Lockport Fire Chief Luca Quagliano.

Mercy Flight EMS also helps assist patients to ENH. The director of medical operations Mike Gugliuzza says having to travel longer to reach an ER not only puts strain on patient care, but could also lead to a shortage of available EMTs.

“A patient that we’re transporting to ENH from that area can be a fairly quick turn around to get the patient off loaded in the ambulance and crews back in service,” he said. “Now if they have to go to a hospital that’s farther away it not only may incur longer operating times you’ll also have increase travel times.”

After struggling financially for years, Eastern Niagara Hospital will close on June 17th.

Catholic Health will be opening up Lockport Memorial Hospital off Transit road to take over services. That hospital isn’t expected to open until some time in the Fall.

Quagliano says he’s hopeful that timeline won’t extend, but he tells me they are preparing incase it does.

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Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.