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State prescribes tough medicine

The statewide Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century recently announced a sweeping set of reform recommendations to restructure hospital and nursing home systems in New York, and some of those reforms would have a significant impact on Capital District facilities.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, the commission issued a report that proposed changes to one quarter of all the hospitals in the state. Locally, that includes a suggested merger of two Albany County nursing homes, changes to Ellis and St. Clare hospitals in Schenectady and a recommendation to close Bellevue Woman's Hospital. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, Ellis and St. Clare's agreed to merge.

In its report, the commission said Bellevue's weak financial situation and the benefits that consolidation with other area hospitals would have on the quality of care, are reasons for the proposed closure, as well as improving the viability to other Schenectady hospitals as a result of capturing Bellevue's patient base a high percentage of whom are privately insured.

Under the law that founded the commission as part of the 2005-2006 state budget, the report's findings are recommendations only and would need to be accepted by both the governor and the Legis-lature as a whole to become law.

The plan has been publicly endorsed by Gov. George Pataki and Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer.

Anne Saile, president and CEO of Bellevue, said she is challenging the commission's findings.

I'm here to say that Bellevue is here to stay," said Saile.

Saile said the findings surprised her, and the report did not include anything about the impact that closing the only women's hospital in the state could have on the region.

"It was disappointing that there wasn't any talk about that," she said.

"We have such a special, unique, award-winning hospital," said Saile. "For that not to be recognized is very disappointing not just for me but the thousands of women who come to Bellevue."

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