ALBANY - A bill that would have allowed Adirondack Health to run a part-time, off-campus emergency room at its Lake Placid hospital didn't survive Friday's end of the legislative session in Albany.
The Senate bill was approved Thursday night, but the Assembly version never made it to the floor for a vote before that chamber adjourned late Friday night. The bills had been introduced last week.
"We're disappointed the legislative route wasn't successful," Dan Mac Entee, a spokesman for Sen. Betty Little, wrote in a prepared statement. Little, R-Queensbury, had sponsored the Senate bill. "With support of the health committee chairs in both houses, we were hoping that, although introduced late in the session, that both houses would have voted to approve the measure."
State Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, who sponsored the Assembly version, told the Enterprise Saturday that the fact that the legislation was introduced late in the session may have hurt its chances. He also noted that it was opposed by the New York State Nurses Association, although he said he didn't know if that played a role in why it didn't move forward.
The legislation was seen by some as a possible compromise between Adirondack Health's controversial plan to convert the Lake Placid ER to a part-time urgent care center and a community wanting to keep its ER open. In late May, 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.
The bills proposed in Albany would have addressed 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.
The Assembly and Senate legislation would have amended state Public Health Law to create the "Lake Placid Part-Time Off-Campus Emergency Department Demonstration Program." Essentially, Adirondack Health would have been allowed to 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.
Stec had called the legislation "a reasonable compromise to save some level of emergency care in Lake Placid, at least for the short-term, until maybe a better long-term solution is found."
The Healthcare Association of New York State had also backed the Lake Placid ER bills.
"By providing flexibility to offer services at least 12 hours a day, Adirondack Medical Center will be able to continue providing needed health care services to the Lake Placid community," HANYS wrote in a June 18 memo supporting the legislation. "Working in collaboration with Adirondack Medical Center's Saranac Lake facility, Lake Placid residents will have access to the full range of health care services they need."
The nurses' union, which represents Adirondack Health nurses, said the move would limit life-saving, emergency care to the residents and visitors of Lake Placid and surrounding towns and put increased pressure on EMS services in the area.
Now that the legislation has been defeated, Stec said Saturday he'll work with Little and others to see if there's another way to address the issue.
"While I think the legislative route was the preferred route, we're going to pursue and see if there's anything we can do administratively," he said. "Is there something the Department of Health can do, absent of the legislation we tried to get through, that would basically try to get us to the same point, to a point where we have as much coverage for emergency situations as possible?"
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@