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?