President Rich Kosmerl of the WCCHS Board of managers said he understands people’s concerns and describes the situation as unfortunate. He’s prohibited by state and federal law from discussing the termination of Mason’s contract but said the farewell letter contains inaccuracies.
“The patient issues that have been brought up are important to us,” Kosmerl said. “He did good surgeries — there’s no problem there, as patients are satisfied.”
Kosmerl said it’s inaccurate that Eichenauer’s service ended after McTernan — who died of a sudden illness last month — came aboard. He said Eichenauer continued in his role as a contractor for another 18 months, with the invoices submitted and showing his service.
“He did a good job during that time, and he was a consultant to the board,” Kosmerl said. “McTernan did use him a few times for mentoring and history.” Mason and Eichenauer attended the Board of Managers meeting regularly, whether in-person or via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
Kosmerl is similarly prevented from discussing the departures of specific medical staff. Many of the nurses who have left the hospital did so due to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, he said, with the possibility others decided to pursue more-lucrative jobs as traveling nurses, as demand and compensation for those jobs increase.
In general terms, hospitals do experience turnover.
The WCCHS has a plan for its orthopedics services, Kosmerl said. A contractor surgeon has been brought on board for spinal surgery, and another will join to provide knee and hip surgery in March.
“That’s not going to satisfy a lot of people who are scheduled for surgery, because they started with Dr. Mason and most people would like to stay with their doctor, and that’s fine,” Kosmerl said. “But that’s not possible in our place, and if they’re not satisfied with those folks, we have been suggesting to them three surgeons in Buffalo that are very good surgeons, and we’ll help them move their medical records to those surgeons if they wish to pursue that route.” To address the longer term, the WCCHS is negotiating with other surgeons and practices to bring a permanent surgeon into the area again to refill the ortho suite.
“There are a lot of rumors floating that O.R. is closing ... and that’s not true,” he said. “We’re going to rebuild the orthopedic clinic, we’re going to rebuild the operating rooms eventually.”
Funding is one of the key challenges at the moment, Kosmerl said. The WCCHS is looking at an $8 to $12 million price tag for its surgical center updates when — like almost every other hospital statewide — it has been hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hospital’s reserves are expended, largely due to the pandemic, he said. The WCCHS has applied for funding to upgrade its surgical center, and a fundraising campaign is likely.
But the pressures are a reality and continue.
The WCCHS also lost $10 million in state and federal funding sources during 2020, with the CARES act and FEMA making up only $5 million of that total, Kosmerl said. The pandemic-related elective surgery bans also hurt the hospital, and people weren’t visiting the Emergency Department as often, cutting back yet another revenue source.
Emergency Department visits were about 20 percent down during 2020 and have recovered to about 95 percent of what they were, but they’re still down.
“COVID in 2020 and 2021 was pretty hard on the pocketbook,” Kosmerl said. “Per year, just for PPE and test supplies was over $2 million. That continues. It’s beginning to be reduced a little bit, but it still continues pretty heavily.
“You can see the losses that are published in the Buffalo and Rochester hospitals and we’re no different from them,” he continued. “Scale-wise maybe, but not in terms of the impact on the hospitals. COVID has taken a lot of stuff out.”
The WCCHS is rebuilding and restaffing the orthopedic unit, and it will continue in the future.
“Obviously, the most important thing is we do feel bad about the impact it has on patients,” he said. “It’s unfortunate and we understand the affect it has on them, and we want to minimize it as quickly as we can.”
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