Ahead of Lockport Memorial Hospital opening, Catholic Health sees high demand for temporary ER

It’s only been a month since Catholic Health set up a temporary emergency room in Lockport, and the South Transit Road site has already seen more than 1,150 patients. 

The location is averaging 42 patients a day so far in July, and about 10 ambulances daily are pulling through its makeshift EMS entrance.

Dr. Jennifer Rogers, medical director of the site at 5875 S. Transit Road, said that while 85% to 90% of those patients have been able to be treated and released home, there also have been some trauma cases and instances of severe respiratory distress come through the site.

“I can confidently say that there are patients who have been brought in, either by private vehicle and some by ambulance, who if they had to travel another 20 minutes for emergency care, they would have had very different outcomes,” she said. “So this has been really important and lifesaving for people in this community.”

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Catholic Health officials scrambled to get the temporary emergency room opened on June 18, preserving local emergency health services after the bankrupt Eastern Niagara Hospital closed June 17 following a 115-year run. Such a solution had been sought by state Health Department officials, who wanted to close any potential gap in care after Eastern Niagara’s closure.

When Eastern Niagara Hospital in mid-March announced that it would close June 17, earlier th…

Catholic Health’s Mount St. Mary’s Hospital is operating the 24/7 Emergency Department until the health system this fall opens the new Lockport Memorial Hospital, which will be a neighborhood hospital that officials hope will be financially sustainable and appropriately sized for the health needs of roughly 80,000 residents in eastern Niagara County.

For Catholic Health executives, it also serves as a kind of introduction to the community it plans to more fully serve once Lockport Memorial opens. 

“It’s kind of a soft opening for us,” Catholic Health President and CEO Mark Sullivan said.

The demand at the temporary emergency room site, which has eight treatment rooms, a blood bank, X-ray capabilities and on-site mobile CT scanning (courtesy of the large trailer parked out front), also serves as validation of the investments the health system is making in this part of Niagara County.

“I think it just shows that it’s needed here, a hospital is still needed here,” Rogers said. “To have ENH close and to have nothing come in its place would have severely impacted a lot of people out here in Niagara County.”

Lockport temporary ER

At its temporary emergency department in Lockport, Catholic Health has a trailer parked out front of the South Transit Road building that has a CT scanner on board.

Lockport Memorial ‘on track’

Mount St. Mary’s President C.J. Urlaub said construction of the more than $62 million Lockport Memorial remains “on track.”

Urlaub expects Catholic Health staff to be able to get in the 60,000-square-foot building, being built off South Transit Road between Shimer and Ruhlmann roads, sometime in August. 

From there, he said Lockport Memorial could open to the public in September or early October.

“We’ve got to get in there, and see how everything comes together,” said Urlaub, also Catholic Health’s senior vice president for strategic partnerships, integration and care delivery in Niagara County. 

Catholic Health temporary ER in Lockport

Catholic Health opened a temporary emergency room on South Transit Road in Lockport at 12:01 a.m. June 18. This provided photo from that morning is illuminated by Mount St. Mary President C.J. Urlaub’s vehicle headlights.

While Catholic Health had to open the temporary emergency room as quickly as possible to ensure no lapse in emergency services, Urlaub said the system wants “to make sure we do it right, that we’re all ready for the patients” at Lockport Memorial.

As for the South Transit Road location, which Catholic Health acquired from Eastern Niagara, that site also serves as an ambulatory surgery center, which the health system has plans to grow, Urlaub noted.

A new model

Lockport Memorial will have one-quarter of the square footage of Eastern Niagara – and that’s on purpose.

“Since day one, it’s been about sustainability,” said Joyce Markiewicz, Catholic Health’s executive vice president and chief business development officer. “We wanted to build something that will be here for the future.”

Lockport Memorial Hospital (copy)

A rendering of Lockport Memorial Hospital, which is expected to open in fall 2023.

Lockport Memorial, which will have 10 inpatient rooms, will house emergency, inpatient medical, imaging and laboratory services as well as office space for primary care, women’s health and specialty medical practices.

Right-sized for the community’s expected health needs, it also will have fewer employees than Eastern Niagara did.

Susan Brooks, vice president of patient care services, said there will probably be about 170 people working at Lockport Memorial Hospital. When Eastern Niagara filed its layoff notice with the state on March 16 – three months ahead of its closing date – it listed 280 employees who would be affected at its East Avenue hospital.

Brooks said Catholic Health “hired a good deal” of former Eastern Niagara employees for the new hospital but also had to recruit. And the jobs at Lockport Memorial will be different than other positions across Catholic Health.

Eastern Niagara Hospital will close Saturday, ending a 115-year run for the East Avenue health care facility in Lockport. As the end nears, longtime employees say goodbye.

“We’re building a model of there’s no titles,” she said. “We’re all there to take care of people and whatever they need. And we’re really focused on that culture, bringing it to Lockport, because every single person that’s in that hospital has one goal in mind and that’s high-quality, loving care to our patients.”

In addition, Brooks said there are about 80 employees working at the South Transit Road site, with roughly 60 in the ambulatory surgery center and 20 in the temporary emergency room.

How it works

With the new hospital, Catholic Health plans to leverage its network of facilities and specialists. 

While the majority of patients will be able to get care on-site with the services available at Lockport Memorial, some may need to be transferred to another hospital in Catholic Health’s footprint for a more specialized service. And after that specialized procedure, the patient would still be able to get their follow-up care closer to home at Lockport Memorial. 

Community and rural hospitals across Western New York are undergoing significant upheaval, with dramatic changes unfolding at several of those facilities in the past few weeks.

To ease those transitions, Brooks said they are developing a concierge program at Lockport Memorial. So if the hospital has to send someone for stroke care at Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, Lockport Memorial will link the patient and the family with a point person at Mercy who will greet them when they arrive.

“We understand that it’s difficult to leave the community if you have to, but we want to make it as easy as possible for them to get the care that they need in our system,” Brooks said.

A major focus of Lockport Memorial, however, also is on preventative services, as shown by the space dedicated in the new building for primary care physicians, said Sullivan, the Catholic Health CEO. 

“We are building these hospitals and adding these services because the disease prevalence in Western New York is kind of embarrassing,” he said. “So how do we organize ourselves and partners in the community to address that? Because that’s really what what we need to do, so that stroke could be prevented.”

Jon Harris can be reached at 716-849-3482 or jharris@buffnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ByJonHarris.

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