Buffalo neurosurgeons received the next approval Thursday to allow construction of the region’s first freestanding neuro-focused surgery center.

The project by Wehrle Drive ASC LLC calls for building a 27,500-square-foot facility on Wehrle Drive in Amherst, offering neurosurgery and pain management procedures. The $7.8 million center will be developed behind a $25 million medical facility now under construction where UB Neurosurgery will open a suburban practice site later this year.

State Department of Health officials said the project has received support from Kaleida Health and Catholic Health hospitals, as well as Erie County Medical Center. Area hospitals currently perform about 650 neuro procedures, with nearly all pain management conducted at private practice sites.

The project was among three separate surgery center applications to receive contingent approvals by the establishment committee of the Public Health and Health Planning Council.

• The Endoscopy Center of Niagara LLC, co-owned by a group of gastroenterologists along with Kaleida Health and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, received approval for indefinite life certification following an initial five-year limited life.

The approval followed a brief discussion by committee members, some of whom questioned lower than required levels of charity care despite levels of Medicaid patients that exceed state requirements.

“This is a place where profits are 25 percent of revenue and provided 0.06 percent charity care after five years,” said Howard Berliner, who also serves as chairman for health policy and management at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “This is really pretty shabby in a county or an area where there are a lot of uninsured people.”

Dr. Yogesh Maheshwari, medical director of the facility, argued that the facility has made efforts to reach the uninsured population, including outreach to area managed care providers, referral agreements with area health clinics that serve low-income patients as well as media outreach on radio and television to promote colonoscopy screenings.

“Every effort has been made to get those patients to come in, but most of these patients if they are in emergent need end up going to the hospital emergency room and taken care of over there,” he said. “When they do reach Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, they have insurance navigators there who try to get them insurance, so by the time they come to us they already have some kind of insurance and are no longer charity care.”

The DOH application also pointed out Medicaid utilization levels of about 8 percent annually, higher than the combined Medicaid and charity care requirements of 6.8 percent. The project was approved with just one committee member voting against it.

• Buffalo Surgery Center LLC on Sheridan Drive was approved by the committee to modify its ownership by adding three new physician members: David Pula and Ryan Wilkins, both orthopedic surgeons with Excelsior Orthopedics; and Daniel Leberer, a colon and rectal surgeon with Buffalo Medical Group. The surgery center, now with 23 members, provides gastroenterology, orthopedics and opthalmology procedures.

All three projects will go on for final consideration in early February by the full council.