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Adirondack Health has proposed converting its around-the-clock emergency room in Lake Placid to a 12-hour urgent care center as a cost-cutting move. Photo: Mark Kurtz
Adirondack Health has proposed converting its around-the-clock emergency room in Lake Placid to a 12-hour urgent care center as a cost-cutting move. Photo: Mark Kurtz

Would a part-time ER be good enough for Lake Placid?

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Legislation proposed in Albany would let Adirondack Health run a part-time emergency room in Lake Placid.

The plan is seen as a possible compromise between a hospital looking to cut costs and a community wanting to keep its ER. But the state nurses' association has condemned the proposal.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

For the past few months, Adirondack Health has been pushing a controversial plan to convert the around-the-clock emergency room at Adirondack Medical Center-Lake Placid to a part-time urgent care center. The proposal has drawn fierce criticism in Lake Placid and surrounding communities, with many saying closing the ER would threaten their safety and hurt local ambulance squads.

Karen Huttlinger was one of many people who spoke against the proposal at a public meeting last month. "You're not talking about Burger King where, 'We're not selling enough burgers during these hours, so we're going to close.' They're people, not burgers, and if you do want to save money, I suggest you look someplace else."

Less than three weeks ago, Adirondack Health's Board of Trustees postponed a decision for at least 60 days, saying it planned to study the proposal further and get additional community input.

Meanwhile, just last week, companion bills were introduced in the Legislature by Sen. Betty Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec. They would amend state Public Health Law to create the "Lake Placid Part-Time Off-Campus Emergency Department Demonstration Program."

The legislation would essentially let Adirondack Health run a part-time, off-campus ER that would have to be open at least 12 hours a day as part of a five-year pilot program.

Dan Mac Entee is a spokesman for Sen. Little. "What we're trying to do with this legislation is provide a degree of flexibility that would enable the hospital to continue providing emergency room care in Lake Placid but on a bit more limited basis," he said. "It's that type of flexibility that's going to help a hospital like Adirondack Medical Center weather a tough financial time with a lot of challenges."

Stec said the bill is – quote – "a reasonable compromise to save some level of emergency care in Lake Placid, at least for the short-term …"

The legislation would address some of the concerns that have been raised about converting the ER to an urgent care clinic. Among other things, ambulance squads have said they can't bill patients' insurance companies if they take them to an urgent care center. Critics have also said an urgent care center isn't required to have as many staff on hand as an emergency department.

Adirondack Health officials didn't have much to say this week about the pending Senate and Assembly legislation, other than saying the hospital is looking at all options for the Lake Placid ER.

But the New York State Nurses Association, which has lobbied against the proposed conversion of the Lake Placid ER, issued a statement Monday calling this latest plan "misguided." The union said "emergency departments are akin to police and fire departments and cannot meet the public's needs or expectations if operated on a part-time basis."

Mac Entee said a part-time ER would be better than an urgent-care clinic. "For those people who would want to see an emergency room maintained in Lake Placid on a full time basis, it certainly is less than ideal," he said, "but again it's reflective of the reality that hospitals, not only Adirondack Medical Center, but others across the state, are going to face as health care changes."

Mac Entee said the bills could be taken up before the end of the Legislative session this week.

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