Inside the Clarion Hotel in Dunkirk on Saturday morning, more than 125 area residents, Brooks-TLC Hospital System employees and local officials attended a rally in support of rural health care with the construction of a new establishment. Outside, however, were about 20 Dunkirk townspeople who did not want Brooks to leave the city limits.
Brooks-TLC, which aims to build a $70 million state-of-the-art facility, planned the event at the request of former Senator Catharine Young. In addition to Mary E. LaRowe, President and CEO of Brooks-TLC, Chris Lanski, current Chairman of the Hospital Board of Directors, and Pomfret City Supervisor Dan Pacos spoke at the 30 minute session.
During her tenure as state senator, Young helped secure funding for a potential new hospital and called on those in attendance to contact Governor Kathy Hochul to release the funds so the project could begin. “We’re not the only ones suffering here at Brooks,” she says. “When you look at rural health care across the state, across the country, they’re on life support right now. Don’t we deserve better than that? Don’t we deserve to have health care in our communities?
Pacos, however, made the most important plea of all the speakers stressing the importance of having a community hospital. “The current setup is outdated and is bleeding the organization red ink,” he said. “We have to sort this out. We need our hospital.
Brooks-TLC, over the past five years, has run deficits of more than $45 million, putting it on the brink of insolvency.
While Pacos, current Fredonia Village Trustees Jim Lynden and Michelle Twichell and County Legislator Kevin Muldowney attended the event, those who did not were even more visible. State Senator George Borrello and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell were not in attendance while County Executive PJ Wendel, who had pledged to attend Thursday afternoon, changed his plans. Fredonia’s current mayor, Doug Essek, was also not at the Clarion.
Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas was outside the establishment after the rally. He wants insurance for Brooks’ current property that spans Sixth to Fifth Streets on Central Avenue if the institution moves.
“We want the state to help us reorient this site”, he said, noting that low-income residents of the city will be affected by the facility’s potential move to Fredonia.
“Without any form of public transport here, that’s going to create a problem,” Roses said.