Gowanda, NY - After four years of waiting, people in the village of Gowanda are now learning that there will be no replacement hospital for the building they lost in the 2009 flood.
There is a sign still standing and still promising a new Tri County Memorial Hospital in a vacant lot of donated land in Perrysburg just outside the village of Gowanda. But village officials and residents must now deal with the news that there will not be a new hospital. The old damaged building has been demolished and the lot on Memorial Drive has now been cleared. It is perhaps symbolic of an empty promise by past management to erect a new hospital.
Officials say the new plan calls for a five thousand square foot expansion of the Urgent Care - Medical Center which is located on Commercial Street in the village. That structure was supposed to be a temporary replacement for the hospital. Now residents will pressure TLC Health and Lake Erie Regional Health Systems for additional emergency service to care for an aging population. They say it currently takes 20 to 30 minutes for an ambulance to get a patient with a serious trauma injury or medical emegency to an ER in Dunkirk or Irving.
Village Trustee Carol Sheibley says "I think the main thing at this point...we need to work together with TLC and make sure that we get our 24/7 urgent care."
Another Village Trustee Dale DeCarlo says the community is hurt by the decision. He notes "I thought it would be feasible. But I'm starting to think now - that's just the way health care is in our country. It's smaller and smaller hospitals and it's turning into money, not health care."
Lake Erie Regional Health System Interim CEO Gary Rhodes says changes in health care and costs caused them to cancel plans for a new full service in-patient hospital. He will not do a recorded interview until there is a state health department decision on the urgent care expansion proposal.
Village Mayor Heather McKeever is also calling for a public forum with hospital officials so that they can answer questions and address concerns of residents.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who pledged federal funding for a new hospital through FEMA, says he will also try to get federal money for the expanded urgent care facility. Schumer told 2 On Your Side "Obviously the easiest is to do what the hospital originally asked. I fought long and hard to get that money for the hospital. But if they've had a change in plans for one reason or another, I'll work with them to see the money can be used for something else."