Reimagining a new Brooks-TLC site
Recently, I was reminded of an annual night out event the Dunkirk-Fredonia community would stage to benefit the Brooks Memorial Hospital. It was called the High Fever Follies.
Its purpose was to raise donations for improvements to the hospital by producing a stage show for the paying public. It was all put together and funded by the Brooks board, hospital doctors and nurses, community leaders, business leaders, union heads and anyone wishing to help. As I remember it was well attended with hours of fun comedy skits, satiric musical and dance numbers all featuring the Brooks staff and local community members. It was a fun way to help a good cause. That was 40 years and it appears the community donations have dried up and now the new Brooks-TLC has to fend for itself.
The world has changed a lot since Brooks announced its desire to build an updated hospital to fit a reduced population with declining employers. It’s time for Brooks to re-invent itself — and it’s not just a matter of location. The important thing is that Brooks remains viable enough to support itself no matter where it is or if the local economy struggles for years to come.
It would be tragic to travel to Jamestown on Route 60 for emergency care. Also, the $74 million the state of New York has promised may not be enough given the present inflation cost of materials. So, we could end up with a further scaled down facility then proposed. Sadly, just two miles away is a huge $200 million structure the state of New York built on speculation with a company with an unapproved product that barely had any revenue. That projects seems to be destine to fail now that the second company to lease the building is facing bankruptcy.
I once read the state leases the building to these companies for $1 per year. Maybe now is the time for a recalculation of course.
Just a thought but the Brooks board could offer the state $2 a year for the entire $200 million footprint and repurpose the remaining millions of dollars to create a medical zone. Imagine if Brooks could afford to create a Community Health Care Campus by remodeling the manufacturing floor to accommodate a 24-hour hospital. And in addition, create another section of the building to sub lease to other health care related companies to offset operating costs. Possibly allowing doctors to rent offices, privately owned clinics, private ambulance service, helicopter pad, long and short-term recovery rooms for after surgery, private short- and long-term COVID or other infectious disease care facilities, all connected by a center court yard in the same building.
Unfortunately, the planners of the original structure located it off the path for quick transportation but money could be found for the Thruway exit that was envisioned years ago.
Brooks started as a family donation to the community and for years after the community supported Brooks to help improve their quality of life. Maybe Brooks could help the community by creating a campus of medical care employment. What is worse is knowing without unified community support even a new Brooks hospital could fail. One last thought, the longer the project hangs in limbo the higher the costs will be so good, executive level, timely decisions need to take place.
Mark Patz is a Fredonia resident.