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If anyone doubted it before, here's what the $10 million gift to Women & Children's Hospital means: This is real. The transformation of the area around Buffalo General Medical Center into the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is happening, and it's happening quickly. This stands to be a game-changer for Buffalo and, for that, the John R. Oishei Foundation deserves the region's thanks.
As a result of the gift, announced on Tuesday, the hospital will be renamed the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital. As well it should. The donation is the largest the foundation has made in its 72-year history, and is also the largest ever to the hospital, which will soon move from its longtime home at Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street to the medical campus, across from Buffalo General. Construction is to begin in the spring and be completed by December 2015.
Plans for the new Children's Hospital have been in the works for many months, and it almost certainly would have occurred without the Oishei gift. But the gift makes a difference, anyway, and in no small way.
For one thing, it demonstrates the community's support for transforming this neighborhood into the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The Oishei Foundation is a generous organization, but it doesn't give away money willy-nilly. It wants bang for its 10 million bucks, and it's going to get it. This will help spread the word that something new and exciting is happening in Buffalo's medical sector. The collection of high-tech medical services concentrated on the Medical Campus is reaching a critical mass.
The evolution of this project is a fascinating study in the difference that leadership makes, both Oishei's and that of Kaleida Health, parent of Children's Hospital. More than a dozen years ago, when a consultant recommended moving the hospital, the outcry was deafening.
It was a top-down exercise in which Kaleida basically told its stakeholders what was going to happen. Doctors, former patients and neighborhood residents protested fiercely and Kaleida backed away from the project.
Kaleida is now under the leadership of President and CEO James R. Kaskie, and virtually everybody is not only on board, but excited about the new hospital. That's because, at least in part, the community was involved in this process and seems to understand that the health of the hospital requires the move.
There is some apprehension about how to reuse the existing hospital, but Kaleida's foresight in finding a new purpose for Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle shows what ingenuity and a commitment to the neighborhood can accomplish.
Oishei, meanwhile, has identified what may be the perfect place to make its largest-ever donation. Its generosity and leadership will go a long way toward ensuring better health for women and children, and also for Buffalo's economy.