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Is new facility still wishful thinking?

From all indications in recent weeks, New York state funding for the building of a new Brooks-TLC Hospital facility in Fredonia is still on the table. That information comes from both state Health Department officials and those at Brooks-TLC.

But it still seems almost impossible.

Brooks-TLC was facing fiscal difficulties long before COVID-19 took shape. In fact, the institution believes it lost more than $19 million in 2019 alone.

“The New York state Department of Health’s commitment to the community has not changed,” said Jeffrey Hammond, spokesman for the Health Department in an email to the OBSERVER, “and we continue to work with the leadership of Brooks Memorial and other providers to ensure access to essential health services for the community is maintained.”

Even more truth lies in the numbers. From 2016 to 2018, New York state has subsidized the operations at the health-care facility to the tune of more than $17 million. Even the new build for Brooks, which will be a downsized model of what currently exists at Sixth Street and Central Avenue in Dunkirk, is expected to cost $70 million in New York funds.

“The hospital continues to work on its transformation plan to ensure a sustainable health system for the future,” said Mary E. LaRowe, president and chief executive officer of the Brooks-TLC System. “While our primary focus has been responding to the COVID pandemic, the hospital has sought and obtained an extension on approvals required by the village of Fredonia Planning Board. We will continue to work with local community leaders, health care providers and New York state to ensure access to essential health services for the community is maintained.”

What’s even more maddening about the potential new facility is the state first announced plans for the building in March 2016. It is almost a statement to the ineptitude of the hospital’s board and partner, Kaleida Health, in not getting this done.

Sure, some hang-ups had to be expected. But for more than four years there still is not a shovel in the ground.

By the way, New York’s finances when this effort was first announced were in much better shape than they are today. According to recent reports, the deficit is nearly $16 billion.

Nothing can be guaranteed in the economy — even with state support.

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