“DON’T close DeGraff Hospital!” That’s the message the legislator who represents the Tonawandas in the State Assembly is sending with legislation he introduced this week. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger said his bill directs the State Commissioner of Health not to implement the recommendation of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century to convert the hospital’s 70 acute care beds to long-term care.
DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda is among 57 hospitals across the state slated for closure, conversion or reconfiguration by the commission, which issued its recommendations in November. The report was approved by former Governor George Pataki, and the state’s new Commissioner of Health is charged with implementing its recommendations. Under the terms of the legislation creating the commission, the Legislature’s role was restricted, leaving it only the option of rejecting the report in its entirety prior to its January 1 effective date. Schimminger and a number of his Assembly colleagues pushed for rejecting the report but did not prevail.
“Now, I am making the case for DeGraff with a bill that would amend the law with respect to this one hospital – our hospital,” Schimminger said. “DeGraff is the only hospital in all of southern Niagara County and the only hospital in the Twin Cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda – it’s far too important to lose.”
Schimminger charged that the commission used a flawed process that resulted in a flawed product. He noted that the recommendations for the Western region failed to win the support of a majority of the regional commissioners, the very commissioners who best know and understand health care in Western New York.
“When the hospital’s many benefits to the patients and community it serves are measured against a recommendation for conversion that lacks both convincing supporting evidence and majority approval by the commission’s own regional members, it is clear that the recommendation to convert DeGraff should be disregarded,” said Schimminger. “I’m committed to doing everything I can to work to keep this hospital open.”
DeGraff Memorial Hospital, first established in 1914, joined Kaleida Health in 1998. DeGraff provides medical, surgical, medical rehabilitation and subacute services, and critical care, as well as a full range of ambulatory services. It scores at or above national standards for quality indicators and patient satisfaction, and its emergency room services are available 24/7. It is also the largest private employer in North Tonawanda. Though part of the region’s largest health system, DeGraff retains its community hospital character and is enthusiastically supported by numerous volunteers and the community-at-large.