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Crusade Begins to Save St. Joseph

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-547143.mp3

Cheektowaga, NY – Outgoing State Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz responded with outrage to the Commission's recommendation to close Saint Joseph Hospital. Tokasz said he will submit a resolution to the Assembly calling for the rejection of all the recommendations.

The emergency room was swamped Tuesday at St. Joseph Hospital in Cheektowaga. But the crowd outside the new $10 million facility wasn't there to get treatment.

Dozens of hospital and elected officials, doctors, nurses and staff were there in solidarity to keep the hospital open. Tokasz vowed to fight, saying the Commission violated its own criteria.

He also cites lack of transparency in the process, saying the state's open meetings laws might have been violated. A state Senate resolution will also be submitted by Senator William Stachowski.

And WBFO has learned that the Catholic Health System has already filed a lawsuit against the state to halt the closing. CHS President Joseph MacDonald said there are legal questions.

That is what court papers filed Tuesday in State Supreme Court argue. Additionally, CHS claims the recommendations violate its constitutional rights of religious freedom.

Dr. Frank Lee heads the emergency department at St Joseph. He's concerned about the medical consequences.

For some nearby residents, such as Sharon Kolacki, the recommended closing is an emotional issue too. She gave birth to her children at St. Joseph.

About 800 employees at the hospital would also be displaced if the recommendations become law by year's end.

That would require the Governor's approval by December 5, and later in the month by the state legislature.

Then, barring a successful legal battle by CHS, the doors of St. Joseph Hospital would close in 2008.

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