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NYSERDA aids energy efficiency at two Kaleida Health facilities

Kaleida Health, with a boost from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, is expected to save $245,000 per year in operating costs at two of its newest health-care facilities on the downtown Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

NYSERDA awarded $532,000 and provided technical advice for energy efficient features built into Kaleida's Gates Vascular Institute and HighPointe on Michigan skilled nursing facility.

In addition to reducing operating costs, the authority said, both projects were designed to use less energy, provide healthy inside air and minimize the effect on the environment.

Gates Vascular Institute and HighPointe on Michigan are expected to use 1.6 million fewer kilowatt hours of electricity and 8,622 million fewer Btu of natural gas than if they had been constructed traditionally. The savings are equivalent to the level of electricity consumed by 230 homes and the heat used by 120 homes annually, NYSERDA reported.

The energy-efficient measures affect heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting. The institute is projected to be almost 14 percent more efficient than required by state energy code and the skilled nursing facility to be 21 percent more efficient.

Money for the project came through the authority's New Construction Program.

---Stephen T. Watson

Wall Street Journal discovers Hotel @ The Lafayette

It's not everyday that a global paper like The Wall Street Journal pays attention to something happening in Buffalo.

But it's not everyday that they learn of the rebirth of an architectural treasure like the Hotel Lafayette -- now the Hotel @ The Lafayette after developer Rocco Termini's $43 million renovation and reopening of the century-old grand dame of early-20th century luxury hotels.

Columnist Carla Blank lays out in a Sept. 11 story the hotel's storied past, and pays tribute not only to the building's legacy -- it was designed by Louise Bethune, the first female American professional architect -- but also to Buffalo's own heritage and collection of architectural gems. She describes its decline, and also its painstaking rebirth under Termini's direction, with master craftsmen working by hand to restore its beauty.

And she explains her own fascination with Bethune, and how that gave rise to plans for her new book on the architect herself.

She also gives a plug to the ongoing revival of Buffalo, with a focus on the very type of cultural tourism that Western New York's economic development leaders are seeking to target.

"If the imagination, creativity and sheer drive that it took to revive this grand lady, the Lafayette Hotel, is an example of Buffalo’s grit, will and determination, then the town can say with former resident Mark Twain that 'the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.'"

- Jonathan D. Epstein




Computer programming conference planned this month

The local tech community is hosting a conference for computer programmers and software developers later this month.

The Nickel City Ruby Conference, held Sept. 20 and 21 at the downtown branch of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, is meant to show off this region as a mecca for developers high-tech companies.

Ruby is an open-source programming language, and this is the first Ruby-focused conference held in the region. The event is organized by members of the Western New York Ruby User Group.

Attendees include prominent members of the national Ruby and open-source programming communities, including keynote speakers Jeff Casimir, head of Jumpstart Labs; Sara Chipps, founder of Girl Develop
It; Zach Holman, a developer at Github; and Neal Sales-Griffin, co-founder of Starter League.

Before the main conference, on Sept. 19, O’Reilly Media will host an Ignite Conference. Following
the main conference, on Sept. 22, Jim Hurne will lead a CodeRetreat at Z80 Labs in Buffalo.

More information on tickets, speakers, the schedule and sponsorship is at

---Stephen T. Watson

AVOX Systems marks completion of renovations

AVOX Systems Inc. is hosting a grand opening Thursday to mark the completion of renovations to Building 2 on its Lancaster campus, work that is part of a $6.5 million, physical-plant investment by the former Scott Aviation.

AVOX, which makes oxygen and respiratory products and systems for the aerospace and defense industries, is making extensive renovations to two of its buildings and mothballing the oldest structure on the 28-acre campus.

The subsidiary of French aerospace company Zodiac Group has 359 permanent employees who work in three buildings at the corner of Erie Street and Walter Winter Drive, the oldest of which, Building 1, dates to the 1940s. Of those workers, 213 are union members.

AVOX has moved out most of the employees who worked in Building 1 but the structure still is in use. Renovations are continuing on Building 3, and this work should be done by January.

The $6.5 million project received an estimated $200,000 in sales-tax breaks from the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency and a $400,000 economic-development grant from New York State Electric and Gas for electrical infrastructure.

AVOX and Zodiac officials will be joined for Thursday's grand opening, which is meant to thank the company's workers, by State Sen. Pat Gallivan, R-Elma; Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, D-Cheektowaga; and Lancaster Supervisor Dino Fudoli.

---Stephen T. Watson

State Senate hearing eyes reforms of medical industry regulations

Members of the State Senate majority coalition are holding a hearing Wednesday in Buffalo to seek ideas on needed regulatory reforms from members of the local health care and medical services community.

The hearing is the first of 10 scheduled over the next five weeks meant to generate proposals for a package of legislation meant to make New York a more business-friendly state.

State Senators Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma; David Carlucci, a Rockland County Democrat; Kathleen Marchione, a Saratoga County Republican; and David Valesky, an Onondaga County Democrat, are hosting Wednesday's event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Gaylord-Cary Meeting Room at Roswell Park Cancer Institute's Research Studies Center.

The senators have invited officials from major health care and medical services institutions and organizations to testify about regulatory issues that hamper economic development in the region and statewide.

Those scheduled to appear include Dr. Donald Trump, Roswell Park's president; Jessica Crawford, president of the MedTech association; Dr. Thomas Madejski, assistant treasurer of the New York State Medical Society; Dennis Galluzzo, executive director of the Pharmacists Association of Western New York; and Dr. Willie Underwood, legislation chair of the Erie County Medical Society.

---Stephen T. Watson

Study: Market power drives higher hospital, specialist prices

A new national study of medical claims data from 13 markets, including Buffalo, found hospitals and specialist physicians charged private insurers a price far higher than the Medicare rate.

The non-profit Center for Studying Health System Change analyzed claims from 2011 for 590,000 active and retired, non-elderly autoworkers, and their dependants, for various medical procedures.

The center found hospitals in those markets generally charged private insurers 1.5 times the Medicare rate for inpatient care and twice the Medicare rate for outpatient care.

Specialist doctors also charge the private insurers average prices that are higher than the Medicare rate, but primary care physicians generally charge comparable rates to both.

The center promised the hospitals and physicians anonymity in exchange for the use of their data.

The markets included St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis. In the Buffalo market, three unnamed hospitals negotiated prices for private insurers that were, on average, 1.58 times the Medicare reimbursement rate for inpatient procedures. The Buffalo hospitals' prices were fourth-most-expensive out of the 13 markets for inpatient procedures.

For outpatient procedures, the Buffalo hospitals negotiated prices with private insurers that were on average 1.35 times the Medicare rate, ranking the region second-cheapest out of the 13 markets.

The study, which criticized the lack of transparency in the pricing arrangements between insurers and medical providers, found disparities in pricing among, and within, the different regions.

"The variation in hospital and specialist physician prices within communities underscores that some hospitals and physicians have significant market power to command high prices, even in markets with a dominant insurer," the study's authors wrote.

---Stephen T. Watson

Four health-care reform sessions planned this month

UPDATE: Another, recently scheduled session at City Hall added to this list, bringing total to four. STW

Experts on the Affordable Care Act's provisions will explain the effects of federal health-care reform in four events over the next couple of weeks here that are open to the public.

The educational forums are hosted by separate organizations but all have the goal of providing more details on the sweeping changes included in the Affordable Care Act as its key provisions go into effect next year.

The free events include:

  • An informational seminar hosted by the Evans Agency and featuring speakers from Evans and the Harris Beach law firm. The session runs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Wednesday in Templeton Landing, 2 Templeton Terrace, Buffalo. Registration is recommended. Contact Pam Sikorski at or at 780-8068.
  • "ABCs of Health Care," a town-hall meeting sponsored by the Buffalo Common Council and Majority Leader Demone A. Smith, will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers, on the 13th floor of City Hall, 65 Niagara Square. Representatives from BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Independent Health, Univera Healthcare and Kaleida Health will attend. No registration required. Contact council staff at 851-5105 for further information.
  • "Health Care Reform: What does it mean to you?" is the subject of a session hosted by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sept. 17 in its offices, 665 Main St., Suite 200. Panelists include representatives from BlueCross BlueShield, Independent Health, Univera and the Lumsden & McCormick accounting firm. Registration is requested and can be done through this page or by calling Charlene Janiga at 541-1770.
  • "The Road Ahead: Launching New York's Health Benefit Exchange" will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 17 in the WNED Studios, 140 Lower Terrace, Buffalo. Kyle Kotary, director of external affairs, outreach and marketing for New York State of Health, and Elisabeth R. Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York, will speak. Registration is required and can be done by visiting the website of the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York.

---Stephen T. Watson


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