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.