Opportunity was missed for a shared hospital

To the editor:

In the late 1940s a group of local and summer residents got together to plan for a new hospital. The old two- (or three-) story wooden residence serving as the Lake Placid hospital on Parkside Drive obviously had long outlived its usefulness. The old Saranac Lake General Hospital also did not meet the then-modern standards. The Lake Placid group included Mary Prime, a prominent local resident, and my father, Frederick M. Heimerdinger. They tried to get Saranac Lake to agree to plan for a new facility serving both communities in the Ray Brook area.

Unhappily the medical staffs would not countenance such a facility, so Lake Placid went it alone. The community raised $400,000 and received $600,000 matching funds from the Hill Burton (federal) Act. A new 50-bed hospital opened its doors in 1950.

My Dad did not live to see it, but my mother, Jane Rosenthal Heimerdinger, served on the board for many years afterward. Actions have consequences, and that decision by the physician community to not support a “midway” facility has left us with the problem we now face.

In my opinion, a good part of the present problem was Adirondack Medical Center’s adventure into long-term care. Unfortunately, verbal assurances as to future rates by the state Health Department are too often unfulfilled, and so AMC is left with a loss leader, and one that competes with AMC for voluntary funding. I do not know what the “right” answer is at this time, but I agree with the Lake Placid village board and the North Elba town board that we can “proceed in haste (but we will) repent in leisure.” If the AMC board has had consultant reports and studies, then transparency (the duty of all not-for-profit organizations) requires that they be made public so that the constituencies may make informed judgments.

John F. Heimerdinger

Armonk and Lake Placid