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Lawmakers Hear Argument for Closing County Home

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County Lawmakers are taking another look at what to do about three million dollars in cuts slated for the Erie County Medical Center. A public outcry erupted when hospital officials announced they would close the County Home if forced to take more cuts.

ECMC chief Michael Young said the hospital is competing and winning with increased admissions and revenues.

But he told the county finance committee that would end if funding to the hospital is cut anymore.

By contrast, Young said the Home, although "a stellar facility," historically loses more than five million dollars every year.

Young agreed to forestall the decision. But he said closing the Home is probably inevitable, unless county workers are willing to help make it viable.

"I think we need to sit down and talk at the county level, as well as at the ECMC level and say, here are what these certain things cost us, and here's how this would make us more competitive, if we we're allowed to do this," said Young. "And I think grown people, in 2005 in the budget situation that faces Erie County, can sit down and do that."

For example, Young said negotiating half- hour versus hour-long lunch breaks for workers could save millions of dollars each year.

But lawmaker Chuck Swanick said it is time to make the tough choices now.

"You save this (the Home)today and you close down the entire thing in six months," said Swanick. "That's where we're at. So, my interest is the stability of ECMC, because that's the heart beat of our institution.

Still, other lawmakers said they are committed to keeping the Home open, one way or another.