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State assisting Brooks in cash crunch

From 2012 to 2016, Brooks Memorial Hospital ran annual deficits that totaled nearly $12.7 million. Today, however, that cash crunch has become even more dire.

In a communication with a Health Department official, it has become apparent New York state is helping keep the doors open at the embattled facility located at Sixth Street and Central Avenue. Additionally, the state remains committed to building a new facility that would be located in Fredonia at the former Cornell Cooperative Extension site, which is nearly across the street from the main entrance to the Fredonia Central Schools.

“As demonstrated by its ongoing operating assistance to Brooks Memorial Hospital and significant capital award to construct a new hospital, the state Department of Health is committed to ensuring that communities in the region have access to essential health care services,” said Jeffrey Hammond, state Health Department spokesman in an e-mail to the OBSERVER.

In recent weeks, the building of the new facility has been in question. There’s no activity at the 30-acre property and the state, when the award of nearly $70 million was announced in 2016, wanted quick action.

One of the obvious delays deals with property selection. Before choosing the former Cornell site in January, Brooks had been looking at a location in the town of Pomfret less than a half-mile to the east off Route 20 near a former gravel yard.

After the first location did not pan out, the process for the facility began at square one with the selection of the Cornell site. In the spring, Mary E. LaRowe, chief executive officer at the Brooks-TLC, and Chris Lanski, board chair, provided the OBSERVER with questions and answers regarding the possible build. Both had hoped for a ground-breaking in the spring with construction to be completed in late 2020 or early 2021.

That time line, however, has not been met.

Opposition from residents to the relocation from its current site in Dunkirk to Fredonia also has not sat well with the state. It took notice of the February protest and petition drive, which led to some second thoughts on granting the funding for the new build in recent months.

In the meantime, hospital officials’ communication with the region has been consistent with past practices that date back to 2008. There is little community input, though there is a group of government and area leaders who are part of a re-use committee for the current location once a new hospital is built.

Members of the board of directors, according to the Brooks Memorial Hospital web site on Friday, include: Lanski; Dr. James Wild, chair-elect; Louis DiPalma, treasurer; Dr. Dana Anderson; Dr. G. Jay Bishop; Andrew Burr; Timothy Cooper; Christina Jimerson; LaRowe; and Steven P. Przybyla, Esq.

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