(Editor's note: This commentary is in direct response to comments about the future of Adirondack Health's Lake Placid emergency room operations made by North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi in the April 11 issue of the Lake Placid News.)
For the better part of the past year, there has been an ongoing conversation about an issue very near and dear to our hearts - the future of Adirondack Health's emergency department in Lake Placid. We have worked hard to keep the community engaged and informed about the innovative approach being taken by Adirondack Health. The idea of change can be scary, so I - as a fellow Lake Placid resident - want to clarify a few things to help you understand how we got to where we are and what is ahead.
Before I do, it is important to note that we will be the first to say that Lake Placid, as well as the entire Adirondack region, is a very special place. We live here alongside you and call you neighbors and, more importantly, friends. Like our local elected officials, the health and well-being of Lake Placid residents and the people of every community we serve is a priority to us.
Chandler Ralph, president and CEO of Adirondack Health
Currently, the New York State Department of Health is reviewing our request to transition the existing emergency room in Lake Placid to a 12-hour emergency room. This first-of-its-kind option is innovative and would position us - and in turn Lake Placid - as a leader in adapting to the changing healthcare landscape in New York state.
Further, this option will allow us to continue employment at this facility, protecting good-paying union jobs.
To get to this point, we have undertaken an exhaustive, data-driven process. Most importantly, it has happened in collaboration with national and state healthcare experts, our healthcare peers, state and local officials, and members of the community. We have listened intently and have adapted our approach along the way to make sure the end result is reflective of input from the following stakeholders and data sources:
Community Health Needs Assessment: In 2013, Adirondack Health, along with partners Essex County Public Health, Franklin County Public Health, Alice Hyde Medical Center, Elizabethtown Community Hospital, Moses Ludington Hospital, Adirondack Rural Health Network Staff and the members of the Regional Health Planning Committee, conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). The assessment has served as a tool that Adirondack Health uses to identify health trends in our service area and develop community service plans.
North County Health Systems Redesign Commission: The Commission - comprised of local and state officials, community representatives, the Hospital Association of New York state and a knowledgeable team from the New York State Department of Health - did a comprehensive review of healthcare in the North Country and provided a host of recommendations, including a call to focus on primary care and less on emergency and episodic care.
Community Meetings: Since this process began, we have made listening to the community a priority. Many of you attended community meetings we had on the topic or sat with us at the table as we discussed potential effects on local citizens, businesses and tourism.
Lake Placid Community Transition Task Force: In 2013, we created the Task Force to further our dialogue with the community. Community members, elected officials, EMS agencies, Adirondack Health representatives and healthcare experts have come together to discuss concerns and lay a clear path forward for communicating with the community if and when the state Department of Health approves our application and a change is announced.
Internal Reviews: The staff at Adirondack Health has spent countless hours researching data, including emergency room visits and off-hour ambulatory traffic. That data has led us to clear and appropriate action to ensure the long-term viability of our healthcare system.
The conversation around our healthcare system has not taken place in a vacuum - it has happened very transparently. Most importantly, we continue to listen.
We have spent over a year now planning for a decision. While it would be premature on our part to roll out next steps without a final decision being issued by the state Department of Health, I can assure you that all sources have been tapped for input, including our valued public officials.
We continue to work in an ongoing fashion with our local EMS agencies to find the best solutions so our healthcare system works seamlessly. They, too, face fiscal challenges and we see ourselves as a partner in helping to chart a sound way forward. We are grateful for their willingness to be at the table with us and for their shared passion to serve all of our communities in their moments of need.
Understanding that our area regularly hosts large-scale events, part of our planning has always focused squarely around these circumstances. We have made it clear we will scale up accordingly to meet the medical needs that arise during events like Ironman. Increasing care capacity for these types of events is nothing new for us. Adirondack Health staff and employees have been the first in line to volunteer their skills and expertise at these events for years. We, like you, share a love for the unique attractions, competitors and visitors that choose to come to our area.
While this background information is important for the community to understand, it's even more critical to understand this: at the end of the day, everything we do at Adirondack Health is for you, your families and any potential patient that may walk through the doors of our facilities. Our doctors, nurses, support staff, board of directors and leadership strive to deliver quality healthcare each and every day.
We are so grateful for all the public officials that have taken an informed approach to this process, from Sen. Betty Little on down. We have had rich and widespread support for building a creative long-term vision for our region. Part of what makes our area so great, is a spirit of collaboration and deep sense of community. We hope that all will tap into these virtues as we move forward with innovative and impactful solutions - together.