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Brooks-TLC Awaits Next Move By State

It appears further discussions on the building of a new Brooks-TLC Hospital System site in the village of Fredonia will not take place again until December. The current process, which has dragged on since March 2016, now appears to be the doing of state. It continues to move slowly in regard to the facility that is bleeding more than $1 million monthly.

State Sen. George Borrello told the OBSERVER earlier this month that during the last briefing with the state Department of Health, which included Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, officials in Albany received a report put together by a locally chosen commission that reviewed a previous plan submitted by Brooks-TLC to the state for the $71 million build. Commission members, led by Richard Ketcham who formerly served as president and chief executive officer at Brooks Memorial Hospital, called the micro hospital plan “essential” and “the most appropriate one.”

Brooks-TLC, at the present time, serves a population of 68,000 residents in the three counties of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie. Like many smaller hospitals, it is struggling with a changing health-care landscape that has transitioned from an in-patient model to out-patient. This has led to five years of deficits that total more than $50 million.

A new facility, as stated by hospital administration and the commission, would reduce those deficits significantly. Though it would not lead to surpluses, the accounting firm of Freed Maxick has indicated “the best case scenario” is reducing annual losses to $3.3 million.

Ken Morris, president and chief executive officer at Brooks-TLC since August, has worked to better communication with the hospital staff and community since taking the post in August. Earlier this month, Morris, his most recent memo, said the proposed site of the new Brooks-TLC — at the former Cornell Cooperative Extension location west of the roundabout on East Main Street — is a key component to future viability of the health-care provider.

“A more convenient product or service will attract more customers to increase the odds of success,” he wrote. “Like all businesses, the same can be said when it comes to hospitals.”

Area residents here have voiced concerns about potential traffic congestion since the location is nearly across the street from the current Fredonia Central Schools campus. Morris, in the note, believes that is overstated.

“To keep it simple, the high traffic patterns for the hospital and school district alternate,” he said. “The hospital primary shifts start at 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. A majority of staff arrive 10 to 15 minutes prior to the shift. The middle and high school-age children arrive between our shifts and the elementary age arrives following both shift changes.”

Morris addressed other concerns that surround the site:

¯ Water would for the campus would be designated to have a connection to Fredonia and Dunkirk. If challenges were to arise from the village supply, water would come from Dunkirk.

¯ Roundabout traffic is something that all commuters are dealing with, including ambulances, staff and patients.

¯ Transportation for walk-in patients is something that will be addressed in time. “The reality is people rarely walk to Brooks-TLC,” he said.

Morris also highlighted the fact the site is “shovel ready” and is more convenient to shopping areas that support both Dunkirk and Fredonia. In addition, proximity to Interstate 90, Routes 60 and 20 and a helipad is “critical to improve access for a higher level of care.”

Currently located at 529 Central Ave., Dunkirk, Brooks-TLC is a four-story facility that — due to its age — requires high costs due to maintenance. The new proposed facility would house outpatient services and a medical office building.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for a new regional hospital, built to reflect what our community needs, which expands access to and improves quality care for a more diverse regional patient base,” Morris said. “Supporting local hospitals is crucial to their survival and could be critical to yours.”

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