SILVER CREEK - Hundreds gathered in the Silver Creek High School auditorium to send the message of "Save Lake Shore Hospital." Residents, employees, elected officials and concerned citizens attended the rally Saturday afternoon, which was organized by state Senator Catharine Young.
Welcoming those in attendance was Silver Creek Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich. Because the school's close proximity, Lake Shore Hospital is a "vital part of the school community." Whenever there is an emergency with students or staff, they are taken to Lake Shore, Ljiljanich said.
Young invited several elected officials and hospital officials to speak at the rally to show their support. She said if the hospital were to close, transportation times could double, triple and even quadruple for emergency services. Lives could even be lost if those crucial transportation times following any medical emergency were to increase.
OBSERVER Photos by Samantha McDonnell
Several hundred residents attended a rally at Silver Creek High School in support of Lake Shore Hospital.
"We are here to raise our voices to let Albany and all of Western New York know how critical it is to save our hospital," said Young. "We are united. We are determined. We are going to work as hard as we can to save Lake Shore Hospital. We're going to continue to roll up our sleeves and continue to do everything that we can. We're going to do it together."
Silver Creek Fire Chief Jeff Griewisch spoke of two separate accidents recently, that if it were not for Lake Shore, lives may have been lost. He spoke of a multi-fatality on the New York State Thruway last year where three people died in a motor vehicle accident and seven people suffered injuries. Griewisch said Silver Creek Fire was the first to respond on scene and patients were transported to Lake Shore Hospital. He also spoke of a teenager who was saved at Lake Shore from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Steve Cobb, coordinator for EMS services in the county, said the Chautauqua County Office of Emergency Services has been working behind the scenes with private ambulance companies to ensure transportation times are not disrupted if Lake Shore is to close.
Congressman Tom Reed said, just like Dunkirk fighting for NRG, the community will continue to fight for Lake Shore. He believes that as there was a positive outcome in Dunkirk, there will be a positive outcome in Irving as well.
"(It's) an outstanding event to bring our community together to send a message to Albany, New York state and Washington to say Lake Shore Hospital will not close because we are going to stand united and fight for this incredible institution in our community," Reed said.
Assemblyman Andy Goodell said the best way to help save Lake Shore is to utilize its services. He spoke of the urgent care facility and clinic in the villages of Gowanda and Forestville and how they are an asset.
"Lake Shore can only stay open if all of you and your friends, relatives and neighbors make Lake Shore their first priority when it comes to health care. When we needed it, Lake Shore was there for us. ... Now it's time for us to give that help back to Lake Shore so they can stay open forever," Goodell said.
Other officials spoke just as passionately. Ross John, a representative of the Seneca Nation of Indians said the SNI is willing to help with their hands held open to anyone in need. Assemblyman Joe Giglio said the community will not lay down without a fight. Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan, who wore a fighter jacket to symbolize the fight, said he will continue to fight until a "successful conclusion." He said earlier this week when the Thruway was closed from Pennsylvania to Buffalo, transportation to other hospitals would be near impossible if major roads are closed.
"Can you imagine if we did not have an emergency health care facility right here with closed roads and snow storms?" Horrigan asked.
In addition to increased transportation times for emergency, Steve Spears, a mental health counselor at the hospital, said the nearest mental health clinics are in Buffalo and Jamestown. He said just that week alone, patients from Jamestown were brought to Lake Shore due to overcrowding.
Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello presented petitions to Young to be taken back to Albany. He used the analogy "when you shine light on something like this, the rats tend to scatter" and thanked all the residents for being that light. He also criticized the hospital for taking taxpayers' dollars.
"This is a community hospital that is a not for profit organization that has taken millions and millions of taxpayers' dollars all while not paying taxes. ... They absolutely have the obligation to provide the services to this community that it requires," Borrello said.
Jim Wild, a director and physician at Lake Shore, commended the new interim CEO John Galati and the board at Lake Shore. Wild said Galati has brought the employees of the hospital together unlike in recent years.
Also speaking were employees Angie Mardino Miller, who is a registered nurse and James Gunnersen, a computer technologist. Brant Town Supervisor Leonard Pero, who credited Lake Shore for saving his life, said the town of Brant and other supervisors in Erie County are backing Lake Shore.
Dennis Stopen, Perrysburg town supervisor, who was in attendance, said it was an "excellent rally." He was pleased the rally was positive in nature and thanked all the speakers, especially Dr. Wild.
"It feels real promising from Senator Young's $1 million funding in all hopes that Lake Shore can be saved for the community," he said.
Collins resident Susan Brown who was in attendance was worried about losing her community hospital. She said since Tri-County Memorial Hospital was not rebuilt, Lake Shore is the next hope.
"It's our community hospital, that's why we're here. It's too far to us to travel (to another hospital)," Brown said.
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