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Buffalo, NY - Sept. 4, 2007 - The Board of Directors of Erie County Medical Center today challenged all Western New Yorkers concerned about the future of health care in this region to support creation of the best-possible new system, a blend of ECMC and Kaleida Health.

But that will not happen if Albany exclusively decides and defines that future, the board said in a rare joint statement. That's what Kaleida wants and it's the direction this debate is headed, board members said.

"ECMC has made it clear, publicly and privately, that it wants the best of both systems to join to form a new one," said ECMC board chairman Kevin Cichocki. "However, it has been obvious to us that Kaleida does not want to change the status quo of inadequate health care in this community, and we are about to miss out on tens of millions of dollars in state aid to fix it."

"This is about the community and should be decided by the community," board vice-chair Jody Lomeo continued. "The only way to achieve that is for ECMC and Kaleida representatives to sit across from each other and hash this out to everyone's benefit. Albany may be well intentioned, but state officials may not understand the dynamics of this area."

Western New York has been at critical junctures like this several times in its recent history, board members said. Sometimes the decisions benefit the greater good, like construction of Dunn Tire Park 20 years ago, or obtaining a larger share of money for the region from the Niagara Power Project. But the litany of bad decisions is too well known. Why is fairness and equity in health care a bad thing? Why should officials from New York City and Albany, who barely know Western New York, format what the future of health care looks like in our region?

Board members emphasized this will happen if patients, families and neighbors don't remain paramount in the discussion and the level of care improves for them. What powerful institutional alliances, political entities, and special interests say does not help when you are in pain, the board said. Endorsements from business or labor leaders beholden to one organization or another will not get you faster response times during a heart attack or quicker X-rays when your child twists an ankle.

"We cannot negotiate with those who refuse to listen to the Berger Commission's recommendations, indeed continue to reject them," said board vice-chair Sharon L. Hanson. "Let us be very clear on this point, and cut through all the rhetoric: We stand ready to reach a fair, negotiated compromise that will benefit all Western New Yorkers. We are not locked in to a corporate structure or a certain set of buildings."  ECMC will continue to look for balanced board structure solutions like that proposed by the Erie County Executive.

The next few months will define this region's medical future, the board statement said. The region can grow and improve, or the two sides can bicker and wait for imposition of an outside decision.

"How we care for the sick, injured and your needy neighbors is really about you, your children, grandchildren and friends," Hanson said. "We who govern ECMC, along with our doctors, nurses and staff, are prepared to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses and let Kaleida judge its pluses and minuses. We seek a fair, equitable and progressive creation of a balanced new entity to oversee and improve our shared health care model."

ECMC's board representatives at the negotiations can imagine and create a dramatically better health care system. They will keep patients foremost and they are determined to succeed.

"The stakes are huge. With New York State's No. 1 Trauma Center, we at ECMC are very concerned of the consequences to health care in this community," said board vice-chair Sam Shapiro. "The difference is if this decision with respect to ECMC is not made correctly people may not have our quality of care available to them and as a result die instead of being saved."

"The consolidation between ECMC and Kaleida can create a new health care system with a focus on national class care and the community. We need to make Western New York a health care destination," Cichocki said.

ERIE COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER:

Erie County Medical Center is known for its best-in-the-state, life-saving Level I trauma center; also excellent heart, kidney, burn, psychiatric and orthopedic programs; a superior physician and nursing staff.

In an April 2007 report, the hospital announced that operating revenues increased by $66 million, or 24 percent, over the past two years as costs were contained and more patients selected ECMC for services they knew were excellent here. From 2005 to 2006 revenues increased 16 percent, or $47 million, to total $338 million.

NEWS CONTACT: Thomas Quatroche (716)898-5503 tquatroche@ecmc.edu

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9/6/2007

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