Health Officials Lobby For New Brooks-TLC
MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County Legislator Elisabeth Rankin, R-Jamestown, who is also a member of the county Board of Health, said she will be sending a letter on behalf of herself and Health Board President Dr. Lillian Ney to Gov. Kathy Hochul urging her to release the funds designated to Brooks-TLC Hospital System.
Rankin noted how important Brooks-TLC is to the northern end of the county. “We need to have some kind of healthcare in rural communities, in the north county,” she said at the Board of Health meeting.
In February, the Chautauqua County Legislature passed a motion urging New York to release the $57 million allocated in 2016 to construct a new hospital. Rankin said she wants the Board of Health to send a letter now as well, since the governor’s budget is due April 1.
Dr. Robert Berke, county physician and Board of Health member, sat on the Blue Ribbon Task Force which looked at the issues Brooks Hospital continues to face, particularly financially. He discussed some of the issues they looked at.
“Basically the hospital has been in trouble for a while and the state has poured in a lot of money to cover deficits,” he said. “The projection moving forward was that with a strong partner, which was envisioned to be one of the large systems in Buffalo, that the end result would be at a certain point the state would go and the partner would pick up and support whatever operational issues going on there and the state would be diminishing, once the building was built.”
Berke said the new hospital facility design was to be smaller and more cost-effective than its current building on Central Avenue in Dunkirk.
Interim Public Health Director Dr. Michael Faulk said the issue for Brooks has been getting a large partner. “The question is how do we get the four big entities to come into Chautauqua County and take a hard look. You’ve got UPMC, Allegheny Health Network, Catholic Health Systems and Kaleida. Some how or another, we have to say, ‘Hey, you guys kind of owe it to us a little bit’ because our local hospitals are sending their entities a lot of patients,” he said.
Health Board member Dr. Elizabeth Kidder said she is concerned that without Brooks, older residents won’t travel for preventative care. “We’re going to have a lot of undiagnosed and late diagnosed items,” she said.
Brooks is eyeing a new facility on Route 20 in Fredonia. The Fredonia Village Board recently sent a letter to the state as well, endorsing the move.