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Hospital needs to communicate better

An OBSERVER headline from Oct. 4, 2019, regarding the new Brooks Hospital, read “Symptoms of silence still prevalent at Brooks.”

Now as the dust settles from the COVID-19 Pandemic and it is now possible to turn our attention to other subjects I realize that nothing has broken that silence regarding the new Hospital from Books-TLC in nearly two years.

I have almost begun to wonder if perhaps the leadership at Brooks-TLC and Kaleida have decided we don’t need a new hospital. However, the work and care provided by the hospital and its staff during the pandemic is proof that northern Chautauqua County needs that new, state of the art, hospital. If this area should ever find itself depending on Erie or Buffalo for emergency care or cases requiring hospital care we will be in trouble. Would any residents want to live in an area where no emergency care is available for life and death situations and would businesses relocate or remain in an area like that?

We were first told of the project over four years ago. Following that, several tentative dates for groundbreaking were announced but no ground breaking has ever occurred and now some wonder if it ever will.

Originally $67 million dollars was allocated by the state of New York for hospital construction. But that was over four years ago when inflation was at an all-time low.

However, in the last few months inflation has begun to reappear in the economy with the cost of construction materials including lumber, plywood, particle board, steel bar, plate, structural steel pieces, aluminum sheet metal, and copper wire and cable have all risen substantially while insulation materials and cement have seen smaller increases.

Then there are increases in the cost of gasoline and diesel, all necessary on construction projects. In addition, many economists forecast a substantial increase in the inflationary rate next year based on a lag in production as the economy recovers from the pandemic and because of huge increases in government spending.

I cannot answer the question as to whether the amount allocated by the state is sufficient to complete the project. That can only be answered by Brooks-TLC and Kaleida but here are my thoughts on several related issues.

First of all, keeping the present Brooks Hospital open is not an alternative. It was built for a different era and it cannot it be operated in a cost-effective manner in the current day. Anyone who feels that it can play a role in the long-term is fooling themselves.

Nor can we depend on “urgent care” facilities to meet our emergency medical needs because they do not operate twenty-four hours per day nor are they equipped to replace emergency rooms in the most serious cases. They do however provide emergency care for less serious conditions.

Many serious injuries and conditions will continue to be routed to Buffalo and Erie hospitals as has occurred for many years and many patients will continue to go to those same hospitals for treatments not available at a smaller hospital. However, a local hospital, like Brooks can provide emergency and hospital care for less serious cases in a setting closer to patients’ homes and families which I think is important.

Northern Chautauqua County needs a new hospital that will meet the areas medical needs far into the future with the financial stability to avoid deficit spending requiring bailouts by the state of New York.

One final thought. I drive past the derelict Lakeshore Hospital several times a week and I’ve noticed that it meets some of the criteria mentioned as reasons for building a new hospital, such as being on a single level and having nearer the optimum number of patient beds. While I realize that it’s not in the exact population center of northern Chautauqua County it does have the advantage that while it would cost millions to update the building and facilities it would still be many millions less than a brand-new hospital. Just a thought.

I end where I began. Brooks, TLC and Kaleida please end the silence and inform the citizens of northern Chautauqua County what your plans are. We are your customers and we deserve to know.

Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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