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Editorial: To protect Ellis, state must reject Albany Med surgery cent

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Primum non nocere.

“First, do no harm.”

This Latin phrase has served as one of the cornerstones of the medical profession for centuries.

And it’s a principle that the state Health Department should embrace as it decides whether to issue a certificate of need to Albany Medical Center for an ambulatory surgery center in Ellis Hospital’s backyard. Allowing Albany Med to operate the surgery center would do irreparable harm to the Ellis Medical system, depriving it of patients, drawing off private health insurance payments that supplement Ellis’ low-income patients, duplicating a service Ellis already provides and for which it still has much more capacity, and threatening the long-term financial health of the city’s primary health facility. That in turn could deprive residents in and around Schenectady of a full-service hospital within close proximity to their homes and offices. It could eventually threaten the thousands of jobs Ellis provides in our region for doctors, nurses, other medical professionals and support staff.

And since Ellis Hospital serves as the central medical facility for other medical specialty providers in the region, residents could ultimately see a decline in the availability and convenience of those providers.

Ellis officials say Albany Med’s 21-month-old EmUrgentCare facility on Union Street in Niskayuna has already deprived Ellis of 2,300 procedures and about $1.2 million in revenue. Allowing that facility to reclassify itself as an ambulatory surgery  center— when Ellis’ ambulatory surgery center is only operating at 45 percent capacity now — could cost Ellis hundreds of thousands of dollars more in lost revenue. Since Ellis Medicine is only operating at a profit margin of between 1 percent and 2 percent, any major loss in revenue could seriously threaten its viability.

This isn’t a parochial position we’re taking. It’s strictly about medical care and economics.This has the potential to negatively affect the medical care of thousands of people in our region who rely on Ellis for not only ambulatory surgery, but for emergency services, inpatient and outpatient medical care and surgery, and treatment for myriad physical and mental health issues. If another major provider is allowed to come in and suck revenue from Ellis, some or all of these services might no longer be available. One might argue, as Albany Med officials do, that competition is good for the consumer, that it helps drive down prices and provides customers with choices they might not otherwise have. And it’s a compelling argument — until one recognizes that the medical industry is not designed to operate in the free market, nor is it regulated as such in New York.

The Schenectady region needs Ellis Hospital and its affiliates to thrive more than it needs Albany Med to offer a duplicative service.

On a larger scale, a decision in favor of Albany Med will not only affect Ellis Medical, but would set a precedent statewide that could open the door to other situations in which a big hospital invades another’s territory to the harm of the existing medical care system.

Follow the link below to read the full editorial.


  The Daily Gazette Editorial

Ellis Medicine | Newsroom

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All official communications regarding Ellis Medicine are arranged through the Communications Department. We look forward to working with members of the public and media organizations to provide accurate, up-to-date information about Ellis Medicine.


Ellis Medicine
1101 Nott Street
Schenectady, NY 12308