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$18M in loans, funds keeps stability at Brooks

Brooks Memorial Hospital

It was already an inauspicious start to the new year for the Brooks-TLC Hospital System in Dunkirk. About one month before the new year, the health-care institution had announced it was closing the Lakeshore Hospital facility in Irving.

Though that campus went through a tumultuous time before officially closing Feb. 2, no one could have possibly forecast the crisis that would cripple the region, state and nation in the next six weeks.

COVID-19 put already fragile rural health-care institutions into even deeper fiscal worries. With visitation and outpatient procedures halted, officials and staff followed orders that came from state Gov. Andrew Cuomo: have your staff and buildings ready for an impending surge.

Fortunately, the overwhelming number of infections never happened in Chautauqua County. In fact, during the worst of the crisis from mid March through May, the hospital reported it treated only seven cases of the coronavirus.

With revenues slowed to trickle, Brooks-TLC was in desperate need of funding to cover the expenses of maintaining its facility at 529 Central Ave. Federal and state programs have helped the private, not-for-profit maintain jobs and pay the bills.

Mary E. LaRowe, president and chief executive officer at Brooks-TLC, said more than $18 million in funding and loans have been obtained by the hospital. More than $10 million in funding came through New York state Medicaid. About $4 million through a federal Medicare loan needs to be paid back and another $4.4 million in Paycheck Protection Program money will be highly scrutinized.

“I would say, with the funding, we’ve been able to manage this,” LaRowe said in regard to the hospital’s efforts of battling the coronavirus. “But we’re fearful of the future.”

Brooks-TLC had been reeling fiscally for more than a decade. According to Internal Revenue Service 990 documents obtained through Guidestar.com, the health-care system has been bleeding money.

Since 2012, the hospital has run deficits totaling more than $17.8 million. That does not count 2019, which could have been as much as $20 million between the Dunkirk and Irving facilities.

LaRowe said without the emergency aid, Brooks would be suffering. Besides payroll and benefits, which cost $2.4 million monthly, other major costs during the health crisis have included additional staffing through agencies that was required by the state due to COVID-19.

“Our team has really rallied,” she said, praising the work of the staff and nurses. “But it’s a whole new way of doing business.”

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