Advancing healthcare access and service to meet those in need

Sponsored by Catholic Health

Shortly after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare companies across the country began scaling back programs and spending. According to Health System Tracker, the national healthcare sector saw a sharp drop in revenue at the start of the pandemic, while patient utilization of healthcare fell precipitously.

But while many healthcare providers were cutting programs and spending, Catholic Health began investing heavily to improve access to care for residents, including marginalized patients, in western New York’s Erie and Niagara counties.

The organization’s work began almost a century and a half earlier when the Sisters of Charity, led by Sister Ursula Mattingly, provided care to local residents dealing with the worst health crisis of the time.

“We were founded over 170 years ago when Sister Ursula came to Buffalo during the cholera outbreak,” said Mark Sullivan, CEO of Catholic Health. Then it was the company’s excellent service that helped many local residents to survive. It’s still like that now.

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For Sullivan and his staff, the toughest test of service came in the early days of the pandemic.

When a patient at one of the company’s nursing homes returned from dialysis treatment with Covid symptoms, Catholic health workers wiped down everyone in the building and found several active cases, which received extensive media coverage.

“The reality is that we were just the only ones who took the time to test, report and treat people,” said Joyce Markiewicz, Catholic Health’s executive vice president and chief business development officer. “It reflected our mission, which is to meet the needs of the community at all levels and ensure that every single person has access to care.”

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New York state, meanwhile, ordered that if nursing home patients with Covid were discharged from the hospital, they would have to return to the facilities where they were most likely to have contracted the virus. Catholic Health stepped in and quickly transformed an abandoned nursing home into a Covid-only hospital where elderly patients could complete their recovery.

In 2020, the company also made a $139 million investment in Epic — a highly rated electronic medical record system — to meet the needs of patients, wherever and however they can access it.

Now, with some hospitals closing or facing bankruptcy, Catholic Health is building a 62,000-square-foot neighborhood hospital — “the hospital of the future,” as it’s internally viewed — in Lockport to provide sustainable, high-quality healthcare for approximately 84,000 residents in the city eastern Niagara County. Lockport Memorial Hospital is scheduled to open in late summer 2023.

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“We felt like we couldn’t turn our backs on the part of the community that had been relying on these other facilities,” says Markiewicz. “We strongly believed that residents should not leave their communities and have to drive up to 50 minutes to receive care. We had to make sure people had access to healthcare in the communities they live in.”

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