Erie County Medical Center Health Care Network

Despite declining occupancy rates, an upstate New York IDN moves ahead with plans to remodel, add facilities and capital equipment, and choose a new group purchasing organization.

With occupancy rates in a steady decline mirroring a general population decline in the region, the outlook is not what could be described as favorable for the Erie County Medical Center Health Care Network in Buffalo, New York. However, the one-hospital system is known as a high-quality acute-care facility and is working hard to carve out a niche that will leave the small system in business and on track for the coming years. The population decline has already set the stage for at least two hospital closings in the region and mergers could take an even higher toll in the coming months. Still, ECMC is the regions primary trauma and teaching center, which should help ensure its success.

Capital Equipment Replacement Is Priority One

ECMC is capitalizing on its statewide reputation for the quality outcomes produced by its open heart program. To that end, the decision has been made to replace an older cardiac cath lab with two new ones, a project that, including construction, is projected to cost about $2.5 million. Toshiba America Medical Systems (Irvine, California) has received the largest share of the cath lab equipment contracts for a project that is now in the renovation stage.

In fact, over the next five years, the system expects to spend about $11 million to replace and acquire new radiology equipment. The first project on the list is for the systems first angiography and fluoroscopy units, where some $3 million to $3.5 million alone will be spent. Plans are also afoot to replace older general X-ray units and bone densitometers.

GPO Decision Nearing

While those projects are underway, ECMC is weighing its GPO options. The system was previously affiliated with MedEcon Services (Louisville) before a New Jersey group acquired that GPO. According to Paul Candino, ECMCs CEO, a choice must be made between Premier Inc., Novation and Western New York Cooperative. At press time, a decision was expected to be made by the end of April, says Larry Graner, the systems assistant director of support services and materials manager. However, it will be a surprise to many if the selection is not Premier Inc.

"Premier has been more aggressive and also offers us more flexibility," explains Graner. "We generally feel that in order to find similar savings from Novation, we would have to commit to its Opportunity program." If Premier is the winner, ECMCs affiliation will be through its link to Mercy HealthSystem and Catholic Healthcare East.

Before a GPO decision is made, one obstacle must first be ironed out, one that may provide a clue to just how flexible Premier will be with ECMC as it competes for the systems estimated $22 million in annual spending (including pharmaceuticals). That possible snag involves the Convertors line of gowns and drapes the system has historically purchased from Allegiance Corp. (McGaw Park).

The IDN is in its fourth year of a very successful stockless/just-in-time distribution program with Buffalo Hospital Supply. But, while Premier and Allegiance have a corporate agreement that includes the Convertors line, Premiers distribution agreements do not include Buffalo Hospital Supply. Allegiance is unwilling to sell its gowns and drapes through BHS, and ECMC is just as unwilling to switch distributors, preferring to maintain its successful relationship with BHS. So some sort of compromise must be forged for the system to move ahead with its Premier affiliation.

Despite that hiccup, both Graner and Joe Gervase, director of support services, feel that Premiers pricing is superior to Novations, even taking into account the cost and the grief some conversions will create.

Since the JIT program kicked off in April 1995, Graner and Gervase estimate that ECMC saved about $2 million. Some 24 FTEs were cut from the payroll, mostly through attrition and early retirement from New York State. Plus, a warehouse that once held as much as $600,000 in inventory now houses just $50,000 in emergency supplies. Buffalo Hospital Supply delivers once a day, six times a week to the IDN.

Graner is seeking some creative agreements in several areas for the near future. One of those involves eye surgery. ECMC averages approximately 300 procedures each year, but hopes to increase that number. Alcon Surgical (Irvine, California) and Storz Ophthalmics Inc. (Clearwater, Florida) are now vying for a share of the possible 900 to 1000 procedures over the next three years in a proposed deal that will package equipment and supplies, though not lenses, on a price per procedure basis.

Another upcoming project at ECMC will be a modernization and enlargement of its surgical and trauma intensive care units. The $3.4 million project will include a rebuilt and relocated dialysis center.

IDN Composition

Not-for-profit (county owned)


Community/tertiary care hospitals 1

Total # of beds 550

Freestanding clinics 4

Nursing homes 2

Total # of beds 794


Currently under negotiation

Significant Vendors

Buffalo Hospital Supply


Eastman Kodak

Eaton Office Products

Stockless, just-in-time distribution


Key Executives

Corporate Office

462 Grider Street

Buffalo, New York 14215

716-898-3289 phone

716-898-5203 fax

Web site (under construction)



Paul Candino

Chief Executive Officer

Sheila Kee

Chief Operating Officer

Mark Zygas

Chief Financial Officer

Helene Kramer

Chief Information Officer



Materials Office

Joe Gervase

Director of Support Services

Larry Graner

Assistant Director of Support Services/Materials Management

[email protected]

Peter Pascale

Pharmacy Director

716-898-3281 phone

Ed Marschner

Assistant Director of

Supply Processing and Distribution

716-898-3861 phone

Barb Sims

Purchasing Supervisor

716-898-3252 phone



Upcoming Projects

Equipment Purchases

Radiology equipment



X-ray units

Bone densitometers