A change of plans

By SAMANTHA

MCDONNELL

OBSERVER Staff Writer

PERRYSBURG – Residents in the town of Perrysburg and village of Gowanda have been waiting for several years wondering if Tri-County Memorial Hospital will be rebuilt. But the answer they’re getting is not the one they wanted to hear.

Gary Rhodes, interim CEO of Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York, confirmed the hospital will not be built.

A proposed $23 million hospital was scheduled to be built on donated property located on Route 39 adjacent to Jolls Road in the town of Perrysburg. The hospital plans included a 20-bed inpatient chemical dependency program and a 25-bed intensive rehabilitation program for women, in addition to an expanded urgent care and primary care practices. A certificate of need was filed with the state two years ago, according to hospital officials. The hospital would have replaced the former Tri-County Memorial Hospital located on Memorial Drive in the village of Gowanda. The hospital was destroyed by a flood in 2009 and was later demolished in 2012.

Tri-County would be the third hospital within a 15-mile radius for LERHSNY, with Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk and Lake Shore Hospital in Irving as part of the partnership. With declining revenue – a lost of between 7 and 10 percent from the prior year, and a declining population, Rhodes said building the hospital would not be economical.

“I don’t think it was ever practical to expect you would have a full-service hospital built there. When you look at what we’re going through right now, it’s very difficult, problematic It’s difficult to have two hospitals within 12 miles of each other, let alone to think there’s three,” he said.

He also disputed the proposed cost of $23 million for the new facility. “A new hospital in the area of 25 to 30 beds you’re talking at least $50 million. If you have three hospitals, now you’d be talking about which one to close, to be frank about it,” Rhodes said.

Perrysburg Town Supervisor Dennis Stopen said he is disappointed at the announcement citing an “unfortunate event.”

“I wasn’t happy. It’s an unfortunate situation and I feel bad about it,” he said.

Gowanda Mayor Heather McKeever is also disappointed the hospital will not be rebuilt. She said the urgent care facility in Gowanda is located on the Cattaraugus County side of the village and the next hospital in Cattaraugus County is 50 miles away. “I am very disappointed that TLC will not be rebuilding Tri-County Hospital. My hope is that in the near future TLC hosts a public forum that will allow our residents the opportunity to discuss their questions and concerns. The residents of Gowanda and surrounding communities deserve answers. The question remains, what will come of the current urgent care center? I understand the challenges in supporting rural health care needs, consider this, the current urgent care center is located in Cattaraugus County and the closest hospital in Cattaraugus County is located in Olean, a 50-mile drive,” McKeever said.

McKeever also had concerns about Lake Shore Hospital being a short drive away and the Gowanda Ambulance Service having only one ambulance in service. Without a hospital, response times in transporting a patient to a hospital could be a critical issue.

“TLC does offer many vital services at Lake Shore Hospital but that facility is an estimated 20-minute drive from Gowanda and in case of any emergency, the Gowanda Ambulance Service only has one ambulance available which puts our residents and those who live in surrounding communities in a vulnerable situation. It is my understanding that TLC hopes to add services to the urgent care center and I strongly recommend that they consider making it a 24-hour facility, with the ability to assist in emergency situations,” she said.

Currently there is an urgent and primary care facility which opened following the flood located at 34 Commercial St. Rhodes said there are plans for the urgent care to be expanded but first an advisory group will be formed.

“We’re in the process of forming a community advisory group to keep them informed of what we do there and we want to get input from them before we go a lot further with that. I would say we would be able to speak to that in a few weeks,” Rhodes said.

A town hall style meeting will be hosted by LERHSNY. The date is to be determined and will be announced at a later time. Stopen encouraged all residents to attend the meeting.

“I truly encourage everybody to attend the meeting at the high school,” he said.

City Editor Gib Snyder contributed to this article. Comments may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com.