LAKE PLACID - The North Elba town board won't take a stance on the possible closure of the Adirondack Health's Lake Placid emergency room until hospital officials have met publicly with local leaders and residents.
Speaking at Tuesday night's board meeting, town Supervisor Roby Politi said a proposal to convert the emergency room to an urgent care facility merits a public discussion. He also urged people to wait for Adirondack Health to release more information about its plans before rushing to judgment.
"I think until such time, everybody getting excited over things, in my opinion, is somewhat premature," Politi said.
North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi
(Enterprise file photo)
Adirondack Health has suffered a $1.7 million revenue loss this year, due in part to declining Medicare reimbursements and federal spending cuts, among other factors. The hospital recently laid off 18 full-time employees and reduced hours for 15 full- and part-time employees. Late last year, 17 other workers were laid off as part of a long-term restructuring plan.
Recently, Adirondack Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Broderick wrote in an internal memo that the hospital may convert its Lake Placid ER into an urgent care facility. That has Lake Placid residents, including North Elba Councilman Bob Miller, concerned.
"The bottom line is: We have a resource in this town," Miller said. "I understand the hospital's perspective that they have financial constraints that they have to be careful with - their expenditures - but we, as representatives of the town, have to be very careful about the potential of losing a valuable resource in our town.
"We need to be advocates for trying to protect that resource," Miller added.
Both Politi and Councilman Jack Favro, who works for the Olympic Training Center next-door to the Lake Placid hospital, have met with hospital officials. Politi requested that two more board members attend a second meeting with Adirondack Health officials, scheduled for April 14. After that, Politi said he expects Adirondack Health will hold meetings with his board and the village Board of Trustees. He said those meetings will be open to the public.
"Everyone can hear what they have in mind," Politi said. "I made it very clear at the preliminary discussions that it was necessary for them to make a presentation and for the public to have an opportunity to ask questions and hear answers and so forth."
Miller said he's frustrated by the rumors and hearsay that are swirling around the community. He said that before the Enterprise reported about the possible ER closure in early March, gossip was already in full swing.
"I wish somebody had gotten out in front of the issue," he said.
Politi agreed. He called the situation a "public relations nightmare" for Adirondack Health.
"I'm not going to pre-judge them," Politi said. "Potentially, maybe what they have to say makes sense."
Politi said if Adirondack Health decides not to hold public meetings about the issue, it would be a "blemish" on their leadership.
There is a clause within the hospital's deed for the Lake Placid property that lets North Elba take the property back for $10 if the hospital no longer provides "certain services," Politi said, but it's too soon to discuss what the town will do.
"I think any decisions that we are going to advocate (for) are going to be services that make sense for the people of the town of North Elba," Politi said.