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Hospital Merger Battle Heats Up

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County Executive Chris Collins is dipping into his campaign war chest to counter television attack ads by Kaleida.

The ad war began with Kaleida's ads blaming Collins and the Erie County Medical Center for blocking the hospital consolidation with their lawsuits. They say it could cost the region millions of dollars in state and federal aid.

Collins' 30 second ad defends the lawsuits. The county executive is seen at a table with two people, explaining his position on the merger.

The ads will run for about a week at a cost of about $70,000. Collins is paying for them out of his private campaign funds. He said he hopes to convince the public and elected officials that a better plan is needed.

Collins said the proposed legislation intended to safeguard ECMC and taxpayers is "disingenuous." He said Kaleida could "raid" ECMC of about 180 million dollars it has in revenues. And he said it would leave the county with about one hundred million in debt and costly union contracts.

Collins says the other parties are trying to railroad their plan through.

The County Executive says he has some ideas for a better plan. But he says, officials from Kaleida, SUNY Buffalo, the joint board and the state health department have all refused to meet with him.

Those officials all met in Albany Thursday with the Western New York delegation. Kaleida spokesman Mike Hughes said it was a good meeting, and there is very strong support for getting a law passed before the legislative session ends.

To comply with the Berger Commission mandates, state lawmakers have until June 30 to pass a hospital consolidation law.

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