February 7, 2008

Ruffalo's Game of Smoke & Mirrors Continues

For the past several weeks, the administration at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center has been engaged in a campaign blaming Niagara County for its financial woes and layoffs. Although it has been hard to peel through the layers of rhetoric, it seems to me that the issue has always been the processing of Medicaid applications and the reimbursement rates. New York State establishes the reimbursement rates for service. New York State establishes the guidelines for processing Medicaid applications. New York State establishes the eligibility requirements for Medicaid benefits. If these state guidelines need to be changed, shouldn’t the hospital’s criticism be directed at the state officials elected to represent the area in which the hospital lies, State Senator Antoine Thompson and State Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte?

But hospital CEO Joe Ruffolo continued his rhetoric and blame campaign by speaking at Tuesday night’s County Legislature meeting. He said that the hospital is saddled with $7 million dollars in uncompensated care, yet he failed to indicate how the county is in any way responsible for uncompensated care. He said that the hospital just wants to be reimbursed for the services it provides, yet failed to demonstrate how the county has any control whatsoever over Medicaid reimbursement to the facility. It made for good television, but was short on substance. I would expect more from an administrator making over $500,000 annually. He has made very serious allegations that he seems unable to substantiate.

Anthony Restaino, Commissioner of the Niagara County Department of Social Services, the agency responsible for processing Medicaid applications, responded and blasted Joe Ruffolo at the meeting, calling him a liar to his face. But the difference between Joe Ruffolo and Anthony Restaino is that Mr. Restaino supported his position with actual facts. Medicaid reimbursement to NFMMC has been stable over the last three years: $9.9 mil in 2005, $9.1 million in 2006 and $9.6 million last year. Restaino added that repeated claims by the hospital that the impact of county Medicaid processing on the facility’s bottom line is a “categorical misrepresentation of the truth.”

In light of the fact that the hospital has yet to produce any documents or reports or figures that would support the Ruffalo’s accusations, it would seem that Restaino may have reason to be upset.

So what is the truth? We will know very soon. Tuesday night, the County Leg passed every single resolution submitted for the purpose of assisting the hospital. Not one single Legislator opposed the relief requested by the hospital administration. So now the ball is in the hospital’s court. If Niagara Falls Memorial fails to bring back the employees it laid off and fails to restore day care services and fails to continue the operation of the Behavioral Services Unit, then Joe Ruffolo will be exposed as the incompetent administrator that I believe he is.

7 comments:

fed up in da falls said...

Ruffalo is a sly old dog, saying he doesn't want the loan proposed by the Kimble, just to be treated fairly. What that means is a loan has to be paid back...he wants an outrigt gift.

Frank DeGeorge said...

I've thought from the outset of this issue that Tony Restiano is the only one who is honest and trustworthy enough to get to the bottom of this. That fact that someone held in such high regard as Mr. Restiano called out Ruffalo says volumes to me about what the real facts are here.

dark knight said...

Doesn't NFMCC crying poor make you want to get the Berger Commission back on the phone and talk about consolidating the center with Mount St. Mary's? It's clear that western Niagara County can't support two hospitals and it's clear that St. Mary's is better run.

Frank DeGeorge said...

I couldn't agree more with Dark Knight. All of NFMCC's problems come to light after the Berger Commission essentially backs off from its merger recommendation. I would bet the Berger members would love to rethink this.

Just Wondering said...

You've got to feel bad for the hospital. They operate in a poor area where there just never going to have the cash flow to be successful.

Having said that, Ruffalo promised some big things, like the Heart Center, that have not panned out as was promised. Where is the accountability for those mistakes?

Anonymous said...

...and where is Senator Antoine Thompson? It's like playing Where's Waldo.

Rufus said...

Where the hell is the state which ultimately runs Medicaid to help decipher the truth here? I think Ruffalo is full of a lot of hot air, but if he's due money for Medicaid patients then pay him.