Ray Holzer is the supervisor for the town of Wilmington, the home of Whiteface Mountain. As sports, recreation and tourism continues to grow in the Adirondacks, he's fearful that medical services will not keep up.
"The state of New York just invested $500 million in state facilities, but yet we're going to let our emergency room close. It just doesn't make sense,” Holzer said. “They had record numbers this past year at the ski facility. Well, we also had more calls.”
And for those roughly 1,000 people living in Wilmington and visiting Whiteface, a trip to the ER in nearby Lake Placid is roughly 20 minutes, on a good weather day. And the roads tend to be very curvy.
“It's very important for people that live in the Adirondack Park that we have some kind of readily available emergency care,” Holzer said.
But soon, that 20-minute trip could double, as Adirondack Health announced a desire to close its ER in Lake Placid and have patients, instead, head to Saranac Lake.
“You can't get to a health care facility quick enough when you have an emergency situation like that,” said Holzer, who also served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.
In a signed statement provided to Spectrum News 1, Adirondack Health leadership says it simply cannot afford to operate to Lake Placid ER anymore. The statement says the department lost nearly $10 million in 2022, averaging only about eight visits per day. And of all its visits in 2022, only about 2% were truly emergencies. Therefore, Adirondack Health said, it felt it had no choice and it submitted a closure plan to the State Department of Health.
“It's huge. This is a big deal to our area,” Holzer said with disappointment.
That is why Hauser feels uneasy about it all. He says the decision was made without any warning — no meetings, at a time the federal government was busy handing out funding.
“Anyone and everyone was receiving COVID money during the pandemic. Had us as public officials been aware that their financial issues were so dire, we could have lobbied our federal leaders to try to get them some seed money,” Holzer said.
Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin says the village’s proximity to Saranac Lake makes this a bit easier to take. He said he certainly understands the frustrations in Wilmington, but added there is also a larger picture to look at.
“We would all love to have an emergency room right here in Lake Placid, but at the alternative is to have the entire hospital go bankrupt and go under and have to drive to Plattsburgh for a hospital. I don't think any of us want that,” Devlin said.
The ER cannot officially close until given permission by the State Department of Health. It’s unknown when that decision will come.
Holzer says he still hasn’t even seen the closure plan. He’s calling on Adirondack Health to have more meetings, with officials and the public, so everyone can better understand.