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Dunkirk residents rally against hospital relocation, despite hospital confirming move is definite

DUNKIRK, N.Y. (WIVB) - A hospital in Dunkirk is expected to move to neighboring Fredonia, which has some Southern Tier residents upset and nervous for the future of their town. About a dozen people rallied this morning, despite the news that the move is definite. 

"That's going to have a devastating effect on our downtown area," Dunkirk Councilman, Don Williams said. 

Brooks Memorial Hospital is located within walking distance of Downtown Dunkirk. It's also along a corridor that leads straight into Fredonia, and many people are nervous about what would happen without it there. Others are worried about accessibility to the proposed new hospital. 

"We are in a community with lower income, and the opportunity for those people to get there is limited," Frank Beach said. 

Beach started a petition against the move. About 3,000 people have signed it so far. 

This morning's rally was ahead of a meeting between Dunkirk officials and hospital officials. Beach was at that meeting, and said the hospital explained why they need to make this move, but neither side has changed its mind. 

The hospital has been on Central Avenue in Dunkirk for more than 100 years, and the plan is to move it about 3.5 miles away, to Fredonia. 

The mayor of the Village of Fredonia said there were 24 sites under consideration for the move. A plot was chosen across from Fredonia High School to build a new hospital. 

She said when she first heard the news of that the hospital would have to be re-built, she was originally against it leaving it's current spot. But after speaking with hospital officials, she said it became clear to her, that wasn't an option. 

"The hospital is very old and very out of code," she said. 

She's now excited for what's to come in the area Brooks Memorial is set to move to. 

The new hospital is expected to cost $67 million, and will be 100,000-square feet when complete. Funding came mainly from the New York State Department of Health, including two grants. 

The hospital released a statement earlier this week, saying: 

"The Brooks-TLC Hospital System Board of Directors stand united. The decision to pursue the Fredonia site is firm and we are moving forward. Working with local, state, and regional officials, we are going through the many steps required for the project to move forward and begin construction this year.

The board of directors has been absolutely clear on the site selection process, reinforced most recently by articles in the press including statements by the chair of the Brooks-TLC Hospital System, Inc. For many reasons, which have been stated publically, renovating the Central Avenue site is simply not feasible because the cost would be prohibitive considering the need for abatement of old building materials and other operational issues. The board attempted to address that issue more than two years ago. Despite the memories and emotional ties to the building, it is not practical to continue to remodel, refurbish and to heat, air condition and power an old building.

We understand, that for home, the move to the Fredonia site is not news they wished to hear. We were disappointed to learn that a local group of protesters intends to demonstrate Friday on the sidewalks around the Brooks Campus, demanding that Brooks be upgraded and remain at its present site. It should be noted that the award for the new hospital was predicated on that fact that we are replacing acute inpatient services of two (2) struggling small community hospitals with one new one.

Success in building the new hospital is critical to the future of healthcare in our region. Further delays could risk grant funding and jeopardize the entire project. To be clear, without a new hospital the Brooks-TLC Hospital System will not survive. Time is not our friend. We must move without delay through the steps necessary to begin construction or risk losing hospital services.

We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a new hospital in our community. This is certainly a rarity in rural communities across New York State. The board has said all along that its number one goal throughout this process has been to work together to ensure that we have a stronger healthcare delivery system in Chautauqua County, transforming health care in our region.

At the same time we are committed to creating a vision for the future use of the current hospital campus working with our citizens’ advisory committee. This group of committed community leaders will bring forth community thoughts and suggestions and advise and counsel our board of directors as we work together to ensure a new life for the Central Avenue campus.

Collaborating with the citizens’ advisory committee and our consultants, Kaleida Health, who have a record of success in hospital reuse transformation, we have every confidence that the Central Avenue campus will emerge as an integral part of community life in Dunkirk."

Brooks TLC Hospital System has released the following response: 

“It’s unfortunate that there is opposition to building a new hospital. While understandably emotional, this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Chautauqua County region.

It’s important to note that this transformation plan is all about improving accessibility and quality of care for the entire community. The State has thankfully recognized the need for change and has made a major commitment to do that.

That commitment, however, is predicated on TLC and Brooks coming together, as well as replacing the acute medical inpatient services of two small struggling community hospitals with a new one. The grant is not designed to make renovations or upgrades.

It would be a shame if those dollars are lost because of the delays and opposition and that they end up allocated somewhere downstate.”


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