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Hochul calls new Brooks-TLC a ‘big win’ for area

New York state Gov. Kathy Hochul announces the deal for a new Brooks-TLC Hospital System Inc.

Northern Chautauqua County’s more than eight-year wait is over. On Monday, state Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the release of $74 million in funding that was set aside in 2016 and 2017 for a new Brooks-TLC Hospital facility that will be located in the village of Fredonia.

About 350 community leaders, elected officials and residents cheered the announcement in the Williams Center on the campus of the State University of New York at Fredonia. The applause was a tremendous sigh of relief for many in the audience who understood — as well as the governor the importance of having a new health-care facility. “Momentum is building, but a lot of it was resting on this project happening,” the governor said.

That’s an understatement.

Before Monday’s announcement concern and worries about the current Brooks Memorial Hospital at 529 Central Ave. were rampant. Since 2018, there have been combined operating deficits of more than $60 million.

With the new building, those losses are likely to remain but they will be much more sustainable since the effort will usher in a new alliance with Kaleida Health. While Brooks-TLC has been working with the largest healthcare provider in Western New York, the location is not under the group’s umbrella.

That will change once the facility has been built in what is hoped to be a three-year project.

Besides Hochul, others who spoke to the crowd noted the significance and importance of a new medical facility for the community. “Your patience, your hope and voices have been the guiding light in this journey,” said Peter DeJesus Jr., president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation. “The new Brooks Memorial Hospital stands as a testament to the power of community when we are united in a common goal. This new facility will not just be a building but a symbol of progress and of hope. It represents an investment in our health, our economy and yes, our future.”

Not in attendance were two area state lawmakers who had key roles in keeping the issue at the forefront in Albany: state Sen. George Borrello and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell. Both were working in the capital, but hailed the project.

“Assemblyman Andy Goodell and I launched the effort to unite local elected officials and other stakeholders,” Borrello said. “We created a blue-ribbon panel to review the Brooks TLC plan for a new hospital, which included some well-known local experts, including the former CEO of Brooks TLC, Rick Ketcham. We brought together nearly every local elected official in the northern Chautauqua County region to sign onto a letter to the governor and Department of Health to show strength and unity on the new hospital proposal.”

Hochul, who once again noted her Western New York ties, said Monday’s announcement will have lasting effects. “This is a big win for Dunkirk, Fredonia and all of Chautauqua County,” she said. “This is the day everything changed for Chautauqua County.”

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