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New Brooks-TLC ‘a big win’

State Gov. Kathy Hochul is surrounded by excitement over the announcement of a new Brooks-TLC Hospital.

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 first set aside in 2016 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.

Commending “Kaleida, Brooks and all of our community stakeholders for working hard to make this vision become reality,” Hochul sees the effort as an important development piece for the region. “Momentum is building, but a lot of it was resting on this project happening,” she said.

That’s an understatement.

Before Monday’s announcement concern and worries about the outdated Brooks Memorial Hospital at 529 Central Ave.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 structure, 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 being eyed as 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 ties to Western New York, 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.”

Plans for the proposed structure include emergency services with 12 bays, 15 medical and surgical beds, four surgical suites and two rooms for procedure, imaging with CT scans, MRI and ultrasound, stat lab services, a pharmacy, support services and a helipad.

“For our health care workers, It means more than just modern facilities,” DeRosa said. “It’s a recognition of our tireless efforts and a promise of a better working environment to provide the best care possible.”

Don Boyd, president and chief executive officer at Kaleida Health, offered his thanks to Hochul, hospital workers and community members for having a role in this next step. “Today’s announcement is also a testament to what partnerships and passion can do for a community. Partnerships like Governor Hochul’s team, Kaleida Health and Brooks-TLC,” he said, “and passion from everyone in Northern Chautauqua County who worked so hard to see this day come to fruition.”

Cheryl Marnino, 1199 Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers East organizer, called the announcement a part of a “long journey. … This rural community will benefit from continued quality care and a truly dedicated healthcare workforce,” Marino said. “We have preserved union jobs and maintained local access to essential health care services.”

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