DeGraff Hospital Granted Permanent Status As Acute Care Facility

Released: 12/15/2010

DeGraff Memorial Hospital has been granted permanent status as an acute care facility.  The New York State Department of Health today announced via letter to the hospital administration that a “permanent waiver” has been given to the North Tonawanda facility.

“We are very fortunate to have the Department of Health, our elected officials and the community support DeGraff Hospital as an integral part of the acute care delivery system in Western New York,” said Tony Zito, the president of DeGraff Memorial Hospital.  “We look forward to developing and implementing our long-term plans now that this closure mandate has been permanently waived.”

The decision follows intense lobbying efforts by the hospital and its parent organization, Kaleida Health, to keep the facility open as an acute care facility, past June 2011.

In December 2006, New York State’s Commission of Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, commonly referred to as the Berger Commission, recommended that DeGraff Memorial Hospital surrender its acute care operating certificate and be converted to a long term care facility.

Kaleida Health fought the conversion, citing community need, emergency department access issues and job losses.

“I would like to thank all of the employees and physicians at DeGraff for never losing faith that their dedication to patient care in the North Tonawanda community would go unnoticed,” said James R. Kaskie, president and CEO of Kaleida Health.  “Working together, we have saved 500 jobs, preserved community access for health care services and set the stage for the next evolution of the hospital.”

DeGraff Hospital presented a strategic plan to the Department of Health that focused on the facility’s gateway to Kaleida Health (coordination into tertiary programs such as cardiac and neurosurgery), physician alignment and as well the creation of signature programs that fit the Niagara County community.

In 2008, the state Department of Health granted DeGraff Hospital a three-year extension as an acute care facility.

Since that time, the hospital’s emergency department volume is up 10% and Kaleida Health has relocated specialized senior care services to DeGraff Memorial Hospital.  The service line moves to DeGraff is part of the relocation of all of the signature programs from Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital, as the facility will close in 2012.

The Department of Health letter states, “Based on our analysis of the health care needs and utilization patterns in the zip codes served by DeGraff Memorial Hospital, we are convinced that closure of DeGraff as mandated by the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the Twenty-First Century (Berger Commission) could adversely affect health and safety by reducing needed access to hospital inpatient and emergency room care in the service area.”

DeGraff Memorial Hospital has proudly served the northern communities of Western New York for over 90 years and boasts a full array of medical services, including critical care, orthopedics, retina, rehabilitation and more.

The hospital also serves a community with significant health challenges.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation show that Niagara County ranks among the bottom six counties in the state, 57th out of 62nd in terms of health outcomes.  Heart disease and stroke are among the top challenges in Niagara County.

Last week, The Geriatric Center of Western New York, led by Kenneth Garbarino, MD, moved to DeGraff Memorial Hospital. The program specializes in the care of patients over the age of 70, with an emphasis on those dealing with complex medical issues and/or memory loss.

In 2009, Kaleida Health’s retina program made a similar move.  The Western New York Retinal Surgical Services moved from Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital to DeGraff Memorial Hospital.

In 2007, DeGraff Memorial Hospital announced the opening of a new outpatient clinic specializing in the diagnosis, management and treatment of diabetes.

DeGraff Memorial Hospital, a 70-bed facility, is one of five hospitals in the Kaleida Health network, which also includes Buffalo General Hospital, Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.