Drudge headline baselessly implicated Clinton in closure of Niagara Falls children's psychiatric unit

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

A January 22 headline on the Drudge Report baselessly suggested that the children's psychiatric unit at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center closed because Sen. Hillary Clinton was "neglecting" New York. The Buffalo News article that the headline linked to contained no mention of Clinton; rather, it reported that hospital officials attributed the closure to problems surrounding the way Medicaid is administered by Niagara County.

On January 22, the Drudge Report linked to a Buffalo News article on the closing of the children's psychiatric unit at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center in Niagara Falls, New York, under the headline: "Hillary Neglecting NY? Niagara Falls hospital shuts children's psychiatric unit ... ." However, the article contained no mention of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY); rather, it reported that "hospital officials said problems getting adequate Medicaid compensation gives them little choice [regarding the closure]" and that "[t]he decision to close the unit at the medical center and cut the hospital's losses follows months of unanswered pleas by hospital officials to the Niagara County manager and officials of the county Department of Social Services to remedy its slow Medicaid approval process."

From the January 17 Buffalo News article:

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center plans to close its 12-bed children's psychiatric unit, effectively ending care to more than 350 patients a year.

Niagara County health officials called the decision "shocking" Wednesday and said it places added stress on a mental health situation already strained to the limit.

But hospital officials said problems getting adequate Medicaid compensation gives them little choice.

[...]

The children's unit falls victim to the hospital's financial losses in uncompensated care from undocumented Medicaid patients, which hospital officials have said amounted to $2.4 million last year.

"We have to do something," Ruffolo said, "because [otherwise] it would jeopardize the whole hospital."

[...]

If things don't change in the way Medicaid is administered by the county, [president and CEO of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center Joseph A.] Ruffolo said, the adult unit is in danger, too."

[...]

The decision to close the unit at the medical center and cut the hospital's losses follows months of unanswered pleas by hospital officials to the Niagara County manager and officials of the county Department of Social Services to remedy its slow Medicaid approval process.

Don J. King, chairman of the hospital board, said there has been no progress since a meeting two months ago with county officials. A meeting a month ago with reporters to draw attention to the matter also failed to draw action from the county.

"The number of uninsured patients has reached a crisis point. This simply cannot continue," Ruffolo said in an earlier interview.

"We can't discharge these patients because many of them have nowhere to go," Ruffolo said, referring to indigent and uninsured residents. "Erie County has a similar situation, but their mission is to enroll as many people in Medicaid."

Chuck Rader, the hospital treasurer, described the skyrocketing cost of providing uncompensated care as desperate and said it is crippling the facility's overall purpose.

Gregory D. Lewis, the county manager, has defended the current procedure for processing Medicaid applications.

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