It’s ‘time for action’ by Hochul on Brooks-TLC

Governor Kathy Hochul, hear our voices.

It is not an exaggeration. It is a profound fact.

A catastrophic tsunami is about to hit northern Chautauqua County in about a month, and we need everyone to pull together to save our rural health care system. Brooks-TLC Hospital soon will be on life support and is in danger of dying in the very near future because of continued delays in building the new hospital.

This disaster doesn’t have to happen.

We need Gov. Hochul to act swiftly to release the $74 million that was granted to Brooks-TLC several years ago or all could be lost.

I was proud to fight to secure these funds with the overwhelming support of the people from this area who stood up and said loudly and clearly that they wanted and needed access to quality health care. I was thrilled to have strong leader partners who also raised their voices in this fight — Assemblymen Andy Goodell and Joe Giglio, former county executives Vince Horrigan and George Borrello, Chautauqua County legislators and other local officials. Together, we got it done.

Today, the Assemblymen, Sen. Borrello and County Executive PJ Wendel have continued to work hard to support the region’s health care system.

In fact, the state budget that recently passed includes $2.5 billion in new funding for essential health care providers — $900 million for safety net providers such as Brooks-TLC and $1.6 billion in new capital money.

The funds are there. It is time for action.

On June 22, the option to buy the proposed site in Fredonia will expire for good. Without the Governor’s commitment to release the funds, the property cannot be purchased. There is no Plan B. The hospital will continue to hemorrhage money without upgrades. It’s then just a matter of time until the hospital closes its doors with no hope for the future.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the site off Route 60 in Fredonia that the Brooks-TLC board chose for the new hospital. The property is about a five to seven minute drive from the current location, and has great access from the area’s main roads, including the Thruway.

Site selection was not an easy decision by the board because of Brooks-TLC’s long history of being located in Dunkirk, and understandably, there is much community pride associated with having it stay there. There are questions about re-use of the building. These all are valid points that will continue to be addressed.

However, time is running out. The current structure is aged and seriously outdated with enormous maintenance costs. The state Department of Health has determined that it is not good policy to invest hard-earned taxpayer dollars into this property, and that is why the state grant is predicated on building a new hospital.

The planned brand new state-of-the-art hospital will attract the best and the brightest professionals that the community needs. By hiring the necessary personnel, the hospital’s finances will be stabilized to sustain it well into the future.

There are some bright spots that demonstrate the promise of what the future could be. In recent years, Brooks-TLC has successfully partnered with Kaleida Health to recruit several critically-needed physicians.

But more needs to be done.

This truly is a life and death situation, not only for the hospital, but in turn for all of those in the community and region who no longer will have local access to emergency health care if the hospital closes.

There is no question that many lives will be lost because people from babies to senior citizens will not receive medical help quickly enough. Heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, serious illnesses — unfortunately, these and other calamities are a part of life and an every day occurrence. We all know someone — a family member, friend or neighbor, even ourselves — who has required emergency room care.

Imagine if the emergency room is not there when you or a loved one needs it most.

Brooks-TLC Hospital and its tireless doctors, nurses and staff have saved countless lives over the years. That access to quality health care in the community has made the difference and must continue.

In addition, the other vital services provided locally by Brooks-TLC such as orthopedic, general and ambulatory surgeries; the inpatient Intensive Care Unit; and wound care will become extinct, too, if decisive action is not taken quickly by Governor Hochul.

Our region cannot absorb another blow. Tri-County Hospital in Gowanda was destroyed by a massive flood in 2009. UPMC abruptly closed TLC Lakeshore Hospital in Silver Creek and forced it into bankruptcy in 2013 and the hospital never recovered from its impact. We won the fight to secure the state support to save NRG and our tax base, only to have the company pull the rug out from under us at the 12th hour. COVID-19 has wreaked devastation on our lives and our economy.

We need a victory, and we need it now. The community must let the governor know that protecting our health is not optional.

Gov. Hochul often speaks fondly about being a proud Western New Yorker. She has been to Dunkirk and other municipalities in Chautauqua County many times, and she cares about people’s health and well-being.

Governor, please hear us. Do the right thing. Release the funds quickly and save our rural hospital.

Catharine Young represented Chautauqua County in the New York state Senate from 2005 to 2019.


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