May 11, 2014

Editorial: Working to secure health services

Adirondack Health is to be commended for devising a sensible and compassionate solution to a sticky clash between financial pressure and community needs.

The health-care organization operates Adirondack Medical Center facilities in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. It wanted to shut down the smaller Lake Placid site, which had become a financial drain and was operating mostly as an oversized emergency facility.

Adirondack Health couldn’t sit by and watch revenue continue to bleed away; the Lake Placid site lost $896,325 in 2013 alone.

But the possible severance of the security that comes from having a hospital in this world-class tourist destination was a concern to both local residents and the many businesses that cater to visitors.

There was also the question of the athletes who train at Olympic facilities in Lake Placid, the numerous groups that have booked conventions, the skiers at nearby Whiteface Mountain and riders in the annual horse shows. Could people with injuries travel the extra 9 miles to AMC Saranac Lake by ambulance without repercussions?

Community reaction was swift and emphatic: Don’t close the Lake Placid Emergency Department.

So what was Adirondack Health to do? It could not afford the loss of income — or the loss of community support.

The hospital board and administration did just what they needed to do — they listened, and they compromised.

Adirondack Health worked to gain state approval for what spokesman Joe Riccio described as an “innovative, new model of care that is the first of its kind in New York.”

Starting June 16, the Lake Placid Hospital Emergency Department will turn part time: open for 15 hours a day and closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., its quietest hours.

A 12-hour day was considered but rejected after it was assessed that three more hours would benefit citizens without having much more financial impact — a generous decision.

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