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ECMC celebrates 100 years

The weather was a little cold and windy Sunday on Grider Street, but the mood was warm and happy as Erie County Medical Center celebrated its first 100 years.

It was a real party, with music, food, memorabilia and, of course, speeches in tents in the parking lot. Dr. Edward J. Meyer opened the then-Buffalo City Hospital on Grider Street 100 years ago.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

It was aimed at tuberculosis patients and those suffering from the continuing Spanish Flu epidemic. Back then there were 415 beds. Today, the hospital is a vast expanse of buildings with tens of millions of dollars in expansion, additions and renovations continuing on that same Grider Street site.

President and CEO Thomas Quatroche said the hospital is a place where people heal and move forward.

"ECMC offers, obviously, a place of hope and healing. We have saved many, many lives in this community, generations," Quatroche said. "There's neighbors, relatives, friends walking around this community because of ECMC. In fact, one of our trauma victims that survived recently had a baby. So there's generations of people walking around this community and there's going to be generations to come for the next 100 years."

Quatroche and staffers talked about how what was once a narrow hospital of last resort has become the first choice for medical care for many across the region, not just in ECMC's East Side neighborhood. He said the facility is the only public hospital in the state that is actually making money while providing care, with inpatient and outpatient totals constantly rising.

Former Board Chair Sharon Hanson said it has come a long way from a facility people were reluctant to use because it was perceived as dirty and uncaring.

Credit Erie County Medical Center

"Everything was always done on the emergency before, because we were a Level I trauma unit, that's where everyone came," Hanson said. "Then we started changing some things. We changed leadership. We changed some members of the board. We set a focus and went to the original mission to make ECMC what it is today."

So often the phrase in the news is, "The victims were taken to ECMC." Staffers are proud they can heal so many of those people.

Registered Nurse Loretta Palermo started out 26 years ago as an aide and is now an RN in the Emergency Room. Palermo rode the hospital float in the St. Patrick's Parade.

"Many of those people that walk out of here, I saw today in the parade as bystanders and watching us," Palermo said. "It was very exciting to see them. A lot of them come back to visit us. They're really part of our family. We have a large patient population that always come back to ECMC. It's their home and they are part of our family."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.