TMCNet:  Hospital's future still under review [The Buffalo News, N.Y.]

[August 22, 2009]

Hospital's future still under review [The Buffalo News, N.Y.]

(Buffalo News (NY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 22--The fate of Tri-County Memorial Hospital in Gowanda remained up in the air Friday as engineers assessed damage and the cleanup continued at the facility, which was severely flooded during the storms earlier this month.


"It is too early to tell the full extent of the damage," Jonathan I. Lawrence, chief executive officer of the TLC Health Network, said in a statement, denying rumors that the hospital was to be bulldozed next week.

Hospital officials say they hope that sometime next week or perhaps early the following week they will receive reports from engineers and insurance agents to determine the hospital's future.

The flooding that ravaged Gowanda forced the hospital to evacuate its clinics and nearly 60 patients, mostly from its chemical dependency unit and women's residential rehabilitation facility.

During the height of the storm, the ground floor of the hospital, where the emergency room, primary clinic and dental clinic are located, had 2 feet of water, said Kendrick Bentham, hospital spokeswoman. Parts of the subbasement had as much as 7 feet of water.

On Aug. 14, TLC Health's primary-care clinic in Forestville had to be evacuated after a neighboring building began to collapse. The services are now available at the Forestville American Legion.

Tri-County has been trying to renew communication with staffers and the public; it also is offering some services.

Tri-County's urgent treatment center in Gowanda Elementary School, on Aldrich Street, is open from 8 a. m. to 8 p. m. daily. It is staffed by physician assistants and registered nurses.

The center also offers blood-drawing services from 8 a. m. to 4 p. m. Monday through Friday. In conjunction with Cattaraugus and Erie counties, TLC Health is providing counselors at the center to help residents cope.

Hospital officials are trying to devise a longer-term plan for relocating the urgent- care center because Gowanda Elementary is expected to open for the start of school in a couple of weeks.

As for the primary and dental clinics, patients should call 532-8100 to discuss their needs.

Dental patients with appointments will be called to reschedule. People with emergency dental needs should call their insurance companies for alternative dental providers.

A document retrieval and restoration service company was brought in to remove tens of thousands of medical records. They will be taken to a secure facility, where they will undergo freeze drying.

Also Friday, Hands on Disaster Response, a not-for-profit group based in Massachusetts with extensive disaster response experience, said it will set up a recovery center to connect the agencies and volunteers seeking to help in flood recovery with the residents who need that assistance.

The group's Tri-County Recovery Coordination Center will be located at the Gowanda Fire Department, on Aldrich Street, and will serve Erie, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.

It will be open from 8 a. m. to 5 p. m. daily for about two weeks. For information, call 254-1783 or visit www.hodr.org .

mbecker@buffnews.com To see more of The Buffalo News, N.Y., or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.buffalonews.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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