Eastern Niagara Hospital announces it's closing on June 17

Mar. 17—Eastern Niagara Hospital announced via press release on Friday that it's shutting down on June 17, more than two months before Lockport Memorial Hospital's expected opening in September.

Since Catholic Health announced its commitment to raise and run the new Lockport hospital as a campus of Mount St. Mary's Hospital, in 2021, the plan was to keep Eastern Niagara Hospital open until the new hospital was up and running.

ENH's Friday announcement, sent by community relations director Patricia Brandt, suggested the hospital won't have funds to operate after June 17. ENH was awarded $8.9 million by the state health department to operate through June 17 — which was past the original closing date of January 2023, the release noted.

In response, Mayor Michelle Roman said in a statement that she will be sending a letter to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul asking her "to work with us to keep emergency services for our community." Until the new Lockport hospital is open, she noted, ENH operates the only emergency department in eastern Niagara County.

"We're going to do what we have to do," Roman said.

ENH's announcement said the Ambulatory Center on South Transit Road will close on June 17 as well, and then will reopen "immediately" under the management of Catholic Health, which purchased it and will provide urgent care. The Reflections chemical dependency program is closing on April 1, "due to a staffing shortage."

Regarding emergency medical care, the release advised, after June 17, eastern Niagara County residents who need it should "call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department for care. These hospitals include: Mount St. Mary's Hospital (Lewiston); Medina Memorial Hospital / Orleans Community Health (Medina); Millard Fillmore Suburban (Amherst); DeGraff Medical Park Emergency Department (N. Tonawanda); Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center (Niagara Falls) or Kenmore Mercy (Kenmore)."

Any of those hospitals is an approximately 20-minute drive from Lockport, city Fire Chief Luca Quagliano pointed out.

"If it's a life threatening emergency, like cardiac arrest, that's not a good time to have a 18 to 20 minute drive ahead of you," he said.

Quagliano suggested the increased use of outlying hospitals would put more strain on those facilities, which could create additional problems due to turnaround time waiting for a bed to place a patient in.

"We can't just leave the stretcher and go," he said. "We could be waiting for half an hour, an hour, even three hours. I'm concerned about our turnaround time."

Without a functioning local hospital, Police Chief Steve Abbott said, victims of sexual assault will be vulnerable as no traveling nurses with rape kits will be available on this side of the county. "That means a victim of sexual assault would have to travel to DeGraff in North Tonawanda, St. Mary's in Lewiston or to Memorial in Niagara Falls."

Roman said she has invited ENH administrators to meet with her and emergency services and public safety officials from around the county on Monday. Late Friday, she said, she had not heard back from anyone at ENH.

Several hours after the ENH announcement landed, Catholic Health issued a press release of its own saying it expects to complete construction of the new Lockport hospital in the fall.

"Our health system will continue to provide care to residents throughout Niagara County at our other facilities," the release said.

ENH employees were informed of the closing date on Thursday, according to Brandt.

ENH has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since November 2019. The cost to operate it is about $35 million a year, and grants have been vital funding since insurance and patient billings don't cover it all, according to Brandt.