April 9, 2008

Questions Linger At NFMMC

The Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center (NFMMC) children’s mental health services has been slated to close and the unit’s 34 employees received layoff notices in February. The reason for the closure, at least according to NFMMC President and CEO Joe Ruffalo, is the massive monetary losses to the hospital associated with running the department. Ruffalo even made an impassioned speech to the Niagara County Legislature asking for their assistance, and several county legislators from Niagara Falls had sought to give the hospital a multi-million dollar bail out with county funds.

If running a children's mental health services department at NFMMC is so unprofitable, why is Lockport Memorial Hospital (LMH) looking at providing the same services, at the urging of the state? Is LMH that flush with cash that they can afford to assume responsibility for a money losing operation? Ruffalo had stated that NFMMC was losing so much money because the county was too strict with it's Medicaid requirements and too slow in processing the applications. But if LMH takes on the responsibility, the same requirements will continue to be in place and the county will continue to process the applications.

So what gives? We have taken Ruffalo to task before for his game of smoke and mirrors, but it seems that with every passing week, his weave of deception continues to unravel. When are the people of this county going to get a thorough financial accounting of exactly what is going on with this organization? Millions of taxpayer dollars are being sent to NFMMC, primarily state dollars, and Antoine Thompson and Francine Del Monte have been dead silent on this topic.

Two days ago we questioned spending approximately $60,000 in taxpayer money on a conference and some felt we were nitpicking. Well, we're not talking about a few grand here; we're talking about millions. Is it too much to ask for an accounting of what has happened to that money?

9 comments:

Frank DeGeorge said...

Hobbes, while they certainly is a some real bite to the way you have phrased this question, if you take that edge away, the questions still are legitimate:

1) How did a hospital that was telling everyone how well it was doing suddely hit the skids?

2) How much of the hospitals fiscal pain is being caused by the heart center which opened to great fanfare but according to some has been a money loser, not the silver bullet that was promised.

3) Is Ruffalo's compensation package and that of the rest of his executive team consistent with hospitals of equal size? I've seen in print where Ruffalo makes as much as the head of ECMC, a much, much bigger instituion.

4) And from an LMH perspective, what due diligence are they doing before they agree to take this on? What if Ruffalo is dead on?

5) Is the state providing some carrot to LMH to do this and if so, why didn't they simply offer a similar carrot to NFMMC.

Something is not adding up here. Ruffalo may have some answering to do, but I'm not 100 percent sure he's wrong.

Pete M said...

Frank, you're right on the money. If in fact it is a money losing operation for Niagara Falls hospital, what assurances will Lockport have that they will not experience the same shortcomings? But I do think that there's more to the story, including the heart center. But the question still begs to be answered: What is going on with Niagara Falls Memorial Center, and why has there been no accounting of the financial distress that they are experiencing?

Anonymous said...

How is it that a post about some clown getting booted off of a show that less that .005% of the people of Niagara County watched, and who's from Erie County, will generate 180 comments, but a post about millions of our tax dollars being pissed away gets hardly any attention? Especially when we are so overtaxed. Ya really gotta love the priorities of the people of this county.

Frank DeGeorge said...

Because these issues require some measure of intelligent thought and do not so readily avail themselves to the good guys versus bad guys view of most people on the site.

We question whether Ruffalo has mismanaged his hospital or whether he has been swamped by circumstances beyond his control and wonder whether others are about to make the same mistake.

We want to know about oversight, transparency and accountability. Those are important but not very exciting.

Unfortunately, name calling on both sides over a c-level talk show host is far more compelling.

Simply put: it's why Americans cast more votes for their favorite American Idol than they do for President.

Larry Castellani said...

Anon:
The answser to your question is that the public arenas where people learn about issues like the hospital's dilemma needs to be expanded, not shut down. People know that and want to talk about it such that shutting them down by those in power doesn’t get normalized.

The reason people aren’t talking about this hospital issue is not because it is not as “compelling” as the LCTV issue it is because they don’t know about it let alone really understand it. It seems that most of the participants in this discussion so far also don’t know what’s going on with respect to the necessary details. However, frank degeorge’s statement of the questions involved is quite illuminating and a good example of critical thinking.

But Anon’s name-calling and frank d’s encouraging it by referring to “good guys versus bad guys” is more partisan ideology that we can do without. But Hobbes refuses to edit it out. Why Hobbes? Clean up your act!

Issues of preserving free speech in a free public sphere and issues of undue political influence in public media are as important as hospital administration and funding issues and require as much intelligent thought. Understanding what’s at issue in public media also does not “readily avail” itself of understanding and analysis unless of course one has partisan bias in addressing the issue.

I certainly don’t know the details of the Niagara hospital situation. I wouldn’t even know how to begin finging out. Do you?

But what bothers me is that such discussions don’t, but should, start with concern about the need for such services and not the costs and the possible corruption involved that might explain it. If we need the services and are ethically obligated to provide them, then we can argue about how to best keep, expand or distribute the services. My concern if not fear is that because certain peoples are considered more expendable than others that the financial and managerial concerns take precedent over the human concerns. And when the people don’t really matter, the money matters much too much.

Anonymous said...

L.C. "The reason people aren’t talking about this hospital issue is not because it is not as “compelling” as the LCTV issue it is because they don’t know about it let alone really understand it."
You imply that people know about and understand the LCTV issue. Not true for the most part. The difference is that there is not someone running around behind the scenes spreading their own version of the NFMMC issue. Perhaps Mr. Ruffalo would be well advised to put together a press package slanted to his own ends complete with a conspiracy by Sen. M and the NC Leg.

Anonymous said...

This is classic T.C. The e-mail was sent by Lombardi to Tom well before LCTV made the decision to end the show. If it were part of a conspiracy why would John sent it to T.C. ? So he could take parts of it out of context and turn it against his (former) friend months later, of course. Keep calling your friends at the newspapers and feeding them bs Tom, they'll get on to you sooner or later. Your list of former friends is growing.

DS said...

Probably because the issues at NFMMC are a lot more complex than just a he said/she said situation, and we don't have the facts or knowledge on why it failed. There are any number of reasons it failed at NFMMC, and there are just as compelling reasons that it would be a smashing success at LMH.

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