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ECMC Leader Says He Can Make Hospital Self-Sustaining

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The Erie County Medical Center is in a fight to save its life. The County Executive's four-year fiscal recovery plan would cut ECMC's operating subsidy.

The rain was falling hard last week as the wrecking crane cut into the old Meyer Hospital. Still, ECMC officials say bright new things are on the horizon. But as they plan for the future, the hospital's county funding is on life support.

Some county leaders want ECMC to merge with Kaleida. But Kaleida officials last week nixed that idea. But they said they could take over some services. ECMC's CEO Michael Young says that's not an option.

"Unless you've run a trauma or burn center like we do, those aren't services that you move around like players on a chess board," Young said.

But Young admits, without the subsidy -- at least in the short run -- ECMC is in danger of closing. But he says that isn't an immediate solution to the county's budget woes.

"If I decide to close the hospital today, it would take me a year and half to do so," Young said. "So, I don't think people (who support cutting the subsidy) understand state regulations and labor law.

Young says he'd rather invest his energy in keeping the hospital open.

"People should just let us do our jobs, developing new programs and generating new revenue here," Young said. "I can either to that or do all sorts of plans "B," "C" and "D" to meet political expectations. Frankly, that's a distraction and a waste of time. I'd rather build a program that makes the hospital self-sustaining."

Young says he's also working with unions at both the hospital and the County Home to lower employee costs. Joan Bender is president of CSEA's Local 815, that represents about 1100 hospital and home employees.

"There are always specific issues where you can make a seidebar agreement where the hospital is concerned," Bender said.

Young says, at least for now, there are no plans to close either the hospital or the home.