Brooks’ priority is care

There has been much talk, conversation and, most recently, criticism over the proposed plan to build a replacement facility for Brooks Memorial Hospital.

As chair of the Brooks-TLC Hospital System Inc. board of directors, I would like to set the record straight and clarify some issues that have come up in recent months and days.

First, this once in a lifetime opportunity to build a new inpatient hospital for Chautauqua County is a responsibility that the board does not take lightly.

Collectively, we understand that this opportunity is transformational and comes with some uncertainty and creates concerns for local residents. Such uncertainty is not uncommon in health-care delivery, as hospitals adjust to federal and state policy and reimbursement changes on an annual basis. Rural hospitals across the country and in New York state continue to struggle financially while they address the needs of their communities that often have declining and aging populations, significant health issues, and challenges with provider recruitment and retention.

Prior to the announcement of the site selected in the town of Pomfret, the hospital board went through a lengthy process to identify all available site options in the area, initiated a study to rank all available site options against key criteria, and made the final selection against the criteria. When the announcement was made to build the hospital in the town of Pomfret, we never envisioned the delays that would unfold. In short, we lost of full year of planning and implementation.

As a board, we have a fiduciary obligation to do what is in the best interest of the hospital, employees and the communities we serve. Therefore, we decided that we could not risk any further delays on the site. We chose to seek alternatives from the original list of sites, in the event that additional delays would occur, and the site in Fredonia was evaluated further.

While we would have preferred to discuss this issue publicly or share our activities with the community, it was not possible, as it could easily have affected the real estate transaction for the site in Fredonia.

Many have asked, “Why can’t we keep Brooks Hospital right where it is on Central Avenue?” We attempted to address that question over two years ago. The cost would be prohibitive considering the need for abatement of old building materials.

Moving forward, the board of directors will work hard to communicate information that is not proprietary in nature and keep the community updated on hospital activities. The board and management team acknowledge the responsibility for ongoing communications. Knowing that health care is dynamic, we will do all that we can to inform and educate local residents on future plans for both the TLC and Brooks campuses as they are solidified.

It is often said that change is one thing that is constant. That is true in health care today. We know that the health care delivery system in Chautauqua and Southern Erie counties will continue to evolve in the coming days, months and years; all in an effort to provide the most accessible and highest quality of care for you — our community.

Chris Lanski is board chairman at Brooks-TLC Hospital System Inc.