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County Control Board Forms Committee to Study ECMC

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority is putting ECMC under the microscope. The control board has formed a new committee to study hospital funding.

In the early days of the control board, it wasn't even clear if they had any say over ECMC. Board attorneys scurried to get verification from the state "Legislature that it had, in fact, always intended for the hospital to be a so-called "covered organization." The distinction gives the authority the right to examine ECMC's budget. And they are doing so now in earnest.

Control Board member David Campbell is chair of the newly formed ECMC committee.

"I've met with Michael Young (ECMC's Chief Executive Officer) and County Executive Giambra. There's at least some dialogue going on. What we need to do is to get all the involved parties together to come up with some sort of agreement."

But that may be easier said than done. The proposed four-year fiscal recovery plan calls for eliminating ECMC's operating subsidy. That would bleed more than $13 million from the hospital's budget beginning next year. At one point, Board Chair Ned Regan suggested the hospital should just be closed.

"Apparently, I said something a little silly," Regan is saying now. "Of course it's not true. We're not going to sell the hospital or close it."

ECMC's Chief Executive Officer Michael Young says that's a wise change of heart. He says labor contracts would make it more expensive to close the hospital than to keep it open. Besides, Young says they do have a plan to reduce the subsidy -- gradually. Young says he believes the courts will buy the hospital the time needed. He's optimistic about the outcome of a pending State Supreme Court case over the operating subsidy. The hospital recently won its court battle forcing the county to cough up $18 million for capital projects. Still, Young says he's happy to talk with the control board to try to find a remedy.