By NICOLE GUGINO
OBSERVER Assistant News Editor
IRVING - State Senator Catharine Young, along with assemblymen Andy Goodell and Joseph Giglio, are organizing the rally to keep Lake Shore Hospital open, but they are not the only local officials to show their support for the effort.
Lake Shore Hospital serves the rural populations in northern Chautauqua, southern Erie and western Cattaraugus counties, providing critical emergency care as well as diagnostic, mental health, abmulatory and other services.
Young, along with other officials, hope the rally scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 11 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Silver Creek High School will show how important the facility is to the community.
"We are urgently asking the community to join us to raise their voices in support. Our goal is to have a huge turnout so that Albany and all of Western New York takes notice. Rural health care is in terrible crisis, and the closure of Lake Shore is a real-life example of why we need to take action. Lives are at stake with the loss of the emergency room and other vital health services. Patients will have to travel great distances on rural roads in all kinds of weather with tragic consequences," Young said in a press release.
Elected officials have been in close contact with state Department of Health officials since the closure news broke in late October. Since then, the hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December in order to restructure operations.
Although this is considered a positive step for the facility, officials hope the rally will send a message.
"This rally sends an important message to the New York State Health Department, potential investors and others that Lake Shore Hospital is a critical component of our health care system and has tremendous community support. I urge all concerned residents to attend the rally," Goodell said.
Giglio agreed, noting the hospital's importance to the whole region.
"Residents of the tri-county region deserve access to quality health care. That is why it is so important for our communities to rally together to preserve Lake Shore Hospital, its critical emergency care facility and jobs that are vital to our economy. Let's send a clear message that we're serious about preserving our access to quality health care," Giglio said.
At the federal level, Congressman Tom Reed is also working toward the goal of keeping Lake Shore open, but stressed the importance of attending the rally.
"Working with local and state partners, we aim to protect hospital jobs, access to care and ensure that Southern Tier families aren't faced with long travel times in order to receive emergency care. With a strong, unified message from the community, we have a real opportunity to make our voices heard to keep the hospital open and serving the community," Reed added.
At the county level, Executive Vince Horrigan called Lake Shore Hospital a "top priority" and Legislator George Borrello said he hopes to see a large turnout.
Expected to be represented at the rally are some of the 460 employees that stand to lose their jobs if the facility closes, the Seneca Nation of Indians community who will also be impacted by the closure and first responders whose time and distance to reach an emergency room would double in some places.
"It is very important that everybody show support and band together to let people know how important it is to keep the hospital open," Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo said.
Piccolo said if Lake Shore Hospital is closed, it will make it difficult for Silver Creek Emergency Squad volunteers to leave their jobs for the increased response time to go to Dunkirk, Buffalo or Erie, Pa.
"They need to realize that this is a matter of life and death. They have to consider this is not a dollars and cents factor, it is a life factor," he said.
Young said she hopes, as with the success of repowering NRG, a rally will lead to saving the services and jobs the hospital provides.
"We stood together to fight for our future, and we won. The united force of the people coming together is what made the repowering happen. We are hoping for a similar result for Lake Shore Hospital," she said. "That's why we are asking the community to bring your family, friends and neighbors. Spread the word. We need you there."
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