Monday, February 21, 2022

Doctor Describes Multiple Staff and Management Departures:

Dr. Mason's departure worries former WCCHS CEO Donald Eichenauer 

In 3 Parts: Part 1-Dr. Mason's View; 
Part 2-Eichenauer's View; 
Part 3-to be continued



Donald Eichenauer played a key role in the Wyoming County Community Health System’s turnaround. Eichanauer, who served as the system’s Chief Executive Officer from 2012 to 2019, was part of a team which instituted upgrades worth tens of millions of dollars at the facility — and saw its reputation improve significantly over that period.

“First there is the impact on the community of Dr. Mason’s termination itself,” Eichenauer said Sunday. “Over 2,000 community members, including physicians, employees and patients, have signed a petition expressing their displeasure and detailing its impact on their lives.”

Eichenauer also cited a “farewell letter” written by Mason to his patients within the community. The letter described an environment which has led to the termination or resignation of 14 physicians, medical providers, Board of Managers members and others playing important, or even key, roles within the WCCHS.

Eichenauer also noted that — according to Mason’s letter — no plans have been announced for replacing the three orthopedic surgeons who have departed, while orthopedic services are the largest revenue producers at most facilities.

“This would appear to be cause for concern in an organization’s ability to be financially successful while providing quality care,” Eichenauer said.

Mason’s letter

Mason began working at the WCCHS in 2014, when the system established its orthopedic clinic. He performed more than 300 surgeries there became joining the system full-time in December 2017.

Eichenauer noted at the time that community reaction to Mason and the entire orthopedic clinic was exceptional. All three of its physician providers ranked in the top 98th percentile in patient satisfaction in nationally conducted surveys.

Wyoming County Community Hospital likewise received Advanced Certification status for its total knee and hip replacements in March 2019. The hospital was among only seven statewide — and few nationally — to meet the painstaking standards required.

Mason was serving as the department’s chairman of orthopedic surgery and the hospital’s chief medical officer at the time.

Eichenauer was set to retire in December of that year. The plan was for incoming CEO Joseph McTernan to work with him as part of the transition.

In his “farewell” letter to his patients, Mason said that soon changed.

“Immediately following the retirement of former CEO, Don Eichenauer, the previously stated plan for Mr. Eichenauer to remain in a mentoring role of the new CEO and advisory role to the Board of Managers was eliminated,” Mason wrote. “This resulted in a significant change not only to the leadership, but the future direction of the hospital, causing a palpable decline in hospital culture.

“One of the biggest changes was scrapping the well-established plans to continue to grow quality medical services and build a new ‘state of the art surgical center,’ replacing the very tired existing operating rooms, and continuing to create a rejuvenated sense of excitement for the hospital and community,” Mason continued.

Mason — who said his departure was not his choice — said the “new direction” at the hospital resulted in the termination of several medical providers.

He said they included two doctors from the orthopedics unit; two family practice doctors; a surgeon; two podiatry doctors; two midwives; a neurologist; and Niagara Frontier Anesthesia, which provided anesthesia services in recent years.

Four members of the WCCH Board of Managers were also forced out or resigned after opposing the “new direction” post-Eicheauer, Mason said. They included Town Supervisor Douglas Berwanger of Arccade, along with Frank Vitagliano, Mark Merrill and Cindy Elbow.

The WCCHS likewise lost Chief Financial Officer, and its Director of OR and Women’s Health Services over the past year, Mason wrote.

As of his letter, the county website listed vacancies including its CFO, Controller, Director of Maternity and Women’s Health, Director of Surgery and 29 Registered Professional Nurses.

“Unfortunately, this systemic eradication of services and individuals has not spared (Physician Assistant Jim O’May) or me,” Mason wrote.” We have recently been informed that our contract was being prematurely terminated, despite three years remaining and the expectation that we would finish our careers at WCCHS, likely another 10 years.

“Although the reasons behind these changes, per the Board of Supervisors and certain members of the Board of Managers, appear to be misguided, as the quality of care of providers terminated cannot be questioned, it has caused significant harm to the individuals involved and the overall quality of medical care to the community,” he wrote.

Rebuilding the hospital

Eichenauer described his own worries about the situation in a letter sent Saturday to The Daily News.

He said the WCCHS and the county itself were experiencing financial difficulties when he became CEO. The system was also receiving the lowest quality ranking of Western New York hospitals.

But hospital and county officials determined a clear direction for improvement.

“The Board of Supervisors held numerous community forums which I attended,” Eichenauer said. “If there was one message that was loud and clear from citizens, it was, ‘We are all going to experience a medical emergency or illness; we need this community hospital, but we need quality.’”

The Board of Supervisors and Board of Managers provided significant support at that time in an effort to create a quality rural hospital, Eichenauer said.

Mason was one of the first physicians recruited as part of that process.

The WCCHS needed to improve its culture and quality, Eichenauer said. Its officials were aware of Mason’s reputation and personality — and they needed a “championship quarterback” to help lead their efforts.

“We quickly understood his impact on the hospital and community,” Eichenauer said of Mason. “He enjoyed his role at WCCHS, shared our vision, dedicated himself to his patients and was instrumental in helping improve quality and recruit additional excellent physicians.

“As WCCHS’s orthopaedic practice expanded to six quality providers and attracted patients from Olean, Buffalo and Rochester, I received calls from rural hospitals across the state and even national consulting firms asking how we were able to accomplish this at a small rural hospital,” he continued.

Besides affecting patient care, the loss of a quality orthopaedic surgeon can result in a hospital revenue loss of $4 million or more, Eicheaneur said.

Beyond doctor visits and surgery, orthopedic patients often need physical therapy, MRIs and other services which generate additional income.

The WCCHS orthopedics services were attracting patients from as far as Buffalo, Rochester and Olean.

“As I did rounds visiting patients in the hospital, I literally had patients get out of their hospital bed to shake my hand and thank us for recruiting surgeons with the quality of Dr. Mason and enabling them to feel confident about obtaining their healthcare services locally,” Eichenauer said.

Although he said he’s not aware of the details and actions taken by the Board of Managers, he’s concerned. Chairwoman Rebecca Ryan of the county Board of Supervisors and President Rich Kosmerl of the Board of Managers did not return requests for comment by Sunday evening.

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SILVER LAKE EXPERIENCE (SLE) - Registration now Open for this August 4-6, 2022's SLE. See: SilverLakeExperience.org

W. PETE MAIRS

W. PETE MAIRS
Walter D. “Pete” Mairs, 81, died peacefully on July 23, 2021. Born in Avon, N.Y., on Sept. 3, 1939, Pete was a longtime resident of Geneva, N.Y., and these past many years in Buffalo, N.Y., as well as his beloved Silver Lake. Pete is survived by his wife, Linda Bergstrom Mairs, a loving and true companion; children, Mimi C. Mairs, Jonathan B. Mairs; sisters, June Huff, Helen Dole; brother, Thomas Mairs; stepchildren, Daniel Brinkworth, Jennie Ramsey; sister-in-law, Anne Bergstrom, eight beautiful grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. A service and celebration of life is planned for the fall when all can share the joy of Pete’s life together. Arrangements by Stephenson – Dougherty Funeral Home, Avon, N.Y.

Editor's Note: It was a privilege knowing and working with Pete Mairs during his presidency of the Silver Lake Institute. He was a kind and gentle man, but also firm in his leadership. I served as Treasurer and Chaplain of SLI during those years and I could always depend on Pete's presence in the worship service. He was a man of faith and a gem of a human being. May he rest in God's care.

GERALD C. SAHRLE

GERALD C. SAHRLE
Gerald C. Sahrle, 80, of Perry, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. He was born on Oct. 10, 1941, in Wayland, N.Y., to the late Charles A. and Helen I. (Blowers) Sahrle. Gerry was a line foreman for 32 1/2 years for NYSE&G, working out of the Perry and Hamburg locations, and was a Town of Perry Councilman. He was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons of the Constellation Lodge -404 in Perry. He was an avid fisherman, hunter and woodworker. He is survived by his wife, Valary A. (Conley) Sahrle; 1 son, Gerald (Pamela) Sahrle II of Silver Springs; 2 sisters, Millie Edmond of Greece, Bonnie Fink of Winston-Salem, N.C., 3 brothers, Ronald (Linda) Sahrle of Dansville, Robert (Susan) Sahrle of Springwater, Kenneth Sahrle of Dansville; 5 grandchildren, Bradley Musscarella, Stone and Winston Sahrle, Conley and Cooper Gayton; along with many nieces, nephews and friends. Along with his parents, he is preceded in death by a brother, Thomas Sahrle, who passed away in 2012. Services will be held at the convenience of the family. Gerry will be laid to rest in West Perry Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Perry Center Fire Department, P.O. Box 204, Perry, NY 14530. For more information, please call (585) 237-2626 or to leave a message of condolence, visit www.eatonwatsonfuneralhome.com. Arrangements completed by Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC. 98 North Main Street, Perry, NY 14530.

Editor's Note: Gerald and Valarie could always be seen in the family pew with Pamela, Stone and Winston at Perry First United Methodist Church and continue to be loved. Gerry will be sorely missed. Both were supporters of the Arts at the Silver Lake Institute and Valarie was active in painting and participating in the Annual Show in August. Valarie's presence was always valued and appreciated.

KATHARINE E. PRACZKAJLO ("Kathy P.")

KATHARINE E. PRACZKAJLO ("Kathy P.")
"Kathy P." passed November 8, 2021, of Hamburg and Boston, NY. Beloved daughter of Joseph and Barbara Michalak; loving sister of Daniel Michalak; devoted wife of the late Jeffrey Praczkajlo; cherished mother of Jennifer (Shawn) Jump; loving babcia of Lily Jump; also survived by many beloved family members and friends who became her family. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.

Editor's Note: "Kathy P." as she was better known to us at Silver Lake was an annual summer visitor for most of the last number of years at the invitation of Silver Laker Julia Hoffner. She stayed at the Hoffner Cottage, and became known as both the fun visitor with the vivacious smile to the neighbors at the intersection of Haven Ave. and the Ames Walkway. Kathy P. and Julie could be seen walking and talking between the cottage and the Hoffner boathouse where they could be close to the water. She was also occasionally seen at the Saturday morning breakfasts at Stoody Hall. Her stay was anywhere between 4 days and a week where she had the opportunity to develop a love for Silver Lake. She was not yet eligible for retirement when late last week she developed "a cold" and had to remain home from her job. She did not update her condition over the weekend so the local police made a wellness visit and found her deceased on Monday. She was one of those many people who found Silver Lake and friendship for brief respites where she also found new strength and energy to return to work. She is being particularly mourned by those in the Haven/Ames neighborhood. She will be memorialized next summer at the annual Celebration of Life Memorial Service at Epworth Hall.

BRENDA J. PADDOCK

BRENDA J. PADDOCK
Brenda Joan Paddock, 82, of Perry, born April 15, 1939, now resides in heaven with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Brenda met Jesus as her Savior in 1965. She met him in person on Nov. 14, 2021. She had a beautiful homecoming with music, singing and praying, leading her into Glory. Her last words were “I am well, I am well.”

Brenda’s greatest loves were her family and friends. Brenda had five children with her husband Roger: Don and Daelene Paddock of Florida, Jody and Tim Von Sanden of Pavilion, Bradley and Jeanie Paddock of Warsaw, Jennifer and Paul Guy of Massachusetts, and Nathan and Jill Paddock of Perry.

Brenda dearly loved her grandchildren: Jessica Morillo, Nikki and Clint O’Brien, Luke Paddock, Paul Paddock, Ian and Brooklyn Paddock, Joe and Louana Paddock, Burke and Megan Paddock, Aaron Paddock, Ellen Paddock, Andrew Paddock, Rachael Paddock, Abigail Paddock, Erik and Cassandra Von Sanden, Jacquelyn and Michael Jones, Tim Von Sanden, Brandon and Brandee Paddock, Jamey and Laura Paddock, Peter and Kara Guy, Candy and Jay Waitkevich, Marlo and Ryan Bolger and Jenna and Rory Peterson.

Brenda was blessed and loved her great grandchildren: Chloe, Olivia and Nicholas Von Sanden, Joshua and Jaxon Morillo, Jameson and Cassandra O’Brien, Atlas Paddock, Noah and Ezra Jones, Colton, Brantley and Charlotte Guy, Cameron Waitkevich, Amelia Bolger and Brennen Leonard.

Brenda is also survived by her brother and sister in laws; Frank and Emma Paddock, Viva and Jim Phillips-Richardson and Kurt and Lynn Paddock.

Brenda first started working as a secretary at Perry Central School. She then assisted her husband building Paddock’s Breeding Service. Roger and Brenda together built and ran the Sandsabarn teenage nightclub. Brenda was owner and operator of Serendipity Travel. Brenda’s pleasures included playing organ and piano. She played at a number of area churches along with performing for her loved ones. UPDATED -- Brenda also played with conviction at both indoor and outdoor services at the Silver Lake Institute where her grandson, Luke, sang at Epworth Hall on several occasions and was appreciated by all who heard his inspiring voice.

Brenda was preceded in death by her parents Noble and Freda Buckland, her husband Roger and son Bradley.

A Committal service at West Perry Cemetery will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, November 17 at 11 a.m., followed by a Celebration of Life at LaGrange Baptist Church at 4 p.m.

Memorial donations may be made in Brenda’s honor to the LaGrange Baptist Church 7092 LaGrange Rd. Perry, NY 14530 or to the First Congregational Church P.O. Box 156 Perry, NY 14530. Arrangements completed by Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC. 98 N. Main St., Perry, N.Y. 14530. For more information or to sign the online guest registry please visit www.eatonwatsonfuneralhome.com.

AUGUST 4-7, 2022

AUGUST 4-7, 2022
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