May 28, 2020

Dear Members:

Our community, hospitals and healthcare workers have endured an extraordinary period over these past ten weeks–– facing challenges unimagined during the distant first days of 2020.

While there have been modest ups and down in hospitalizations over the past several days in our region, the numbers suggest we have entered the long-awaited transition of a phased reopening from New York’s Pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor’s announcement this week that WNY had met the metrics for a phased economic re-opening is indicative of the progress made.

We have worked with you –– and with our partner HANYS –– to assure bed expansion, PPE distribution, ventilator sharing and redeployment of staff. We will now be working during this transition period on the emerging front-burner issues that affect your operations and your ability to deliver the finest healthcare possible to the people of this region.  Two items, in particular, are pressing at this time:

  • State and Federal Funding: State budget cuts because of revenue shortfalls would be disastrous for communities generally and hospitals alike. Our advocacy is focused on mitigating any State budget cuts.  We are likewise working with our HANYS colleague in Washington –– Cristina Batt –– to ensure that federal fund distributions make their way to WNY and that any new funding legislation addresses the continuing financial needs of our hospitals.
  • Nursing Home Patients:  New York State’s most recent pronouncements regarding nursing home testing and patient discharge may be well-intended but ignore the practical issues of cost, test availability, lab processing limitations, and delays in returning patients to their nursing homes.  We stand ready to protect and improve nursing homes.  We stand ready to protect and improve the healthcare outcomes for nursing home patients, but the path currently suggested will not have that result. In this regard, daily discussions with NYSDOH continue on workable solutions that do not overly burden hospitals.

Other issues abound of course.  We will be pushing back on the suggested 90-day PPE requirement, working to facilitate employee wellness programs and training that deal with staff stress and behavioral health issues and coordinating with DFS to force reluctant health plans to participate as required in advancing cash and accelerating payments that help hospitals maintain financial viability.

The peaks of COVID-19 chaos have certainly subsided, but much work remains for hospitals to emerge from these turbulent times financially viable and prepared for whatever the future may hold.  Call me –– 716 480 1985 – or Liz Urbanski-Farrell –– 716 517 0380 ––- if we can help with specific issues. 

-Ken Schoetz, President & CEO