N.Y.S. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and Senator George Maziarz held a joint meeting today to enlist public support for advocacy efforts to save DeGraff Memorial Hospital. The North Tonawanda hospital is among 57 hospitals across the state slated for closure, conversion or reconfiguration by the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century.
The two lawmakers who represent North Tonawanda in Albany have joined forces to fight the commission’s recommendation that DeGraff’s 70 acute care beds be converted to long-term care by introducing legislation (S.2826/A.4802) that would prevent the DeGraff recommendation from being implemented.
Schimminger said, “We and others have been fighting this battle on a number of fronts ever since it was first announced. We’re trying to convince the Governor and the State Health Commissioner that there are critical and compelling reasons for reconsidering this plan, and we’ve introduced legislation that will, if enacted, statutorily exempt the commission’s DeGraff recommendation from being implemented.”
“As someone who was born and raised in North Tonawanda, I know how important DeGraff Memorial Hospital is to this community,” said Senator George Maziarz. “To make an injured person or an elderly person from the Tonawandas travel a considerable distance to another city for urgent medical treatment is just a terrible idea.”
Those who attended the afternoon meeting at the Knights of Columbus on Erie Avenue in North Tonawanda also heard from DeGraff Memorial Hospital President Tamara B. Owen. She said, “DeGraff Memorial Hospital is committed to participating in change that will have a positive impact on the efficiency of the healthcare delivery system and on the health and welfare of members of our communities. The recommendation to eliminate acute and emergency services and to add additional long-term care beds to DeGraff are not actions that will accomplish these outcomes. It should be recognized that any money spent on forcing the change of purpose of DeGraff Memorial Hospital will yield little financial impact on the state as a whole, while creating a major negative impact on health and welfare of the community.”
The state legislators warned that reversing the commission’s conversion recommendation for DeGraff was an uphill battle and urged community members to make their support for the hospital known as quickly and as convincingly as possible and to encourage their friends and neighbors to do likewise. They provided attendees with contact information for Governor Eliot Spitzer, the Governor’s Western New York Regional Representative, Laura Monte; State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, the commissioner’s regional Associate Commissioner, Sheila Kee; Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Maziarz said, “The Berger Commission’s proposal to eliminate acute care beds at DeGraff does absolutely nothing to improve or streamline access to quality health care in Western New York.”
Schimminger added, “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.”
The lawmakers concluded, “We all need to send one single, loud and clear message: DON’T close DeGraff Hospital!”