IRVING – The flashing lights and sirens of 25 fire trucks, ambulances and other vehicles lined Routes 5 and 20 early Tuesday evening in front of the entrances to TLC Lake Shore Hospital.
Dozens of volunteers from fire companies throughout the area held signs that encouraged motorists to “honk if you care.”
The group came to show support for the local hospital on a night when members of the board of directors were meeting to decide on a bid from a potential buyer.
The noise and commotion may have gone unnoticed, however, as one employee, who did not want to be identified said the board meeting had been moved to a location in Fredonia.
Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello, R-Silver Creek, who has been part of a committee to try to keep the hospital operating, confirmed that he knew the board was meeting. He also confirmed that Tony Borrello, a Silver Creek business owner and relative of the legislator, is part of the group that wants to help finance a new group of buyers.
He said Tony Borrello provided a nonrefundable check of $50,000 to the hospital board.
“I know he was going to try to attend the meeting and address them personally,” George Borrello said.
A group of about five hospital employees came to the edge of the parking lot to witness the lights and sirens of the volunteers.
“This is incredible,” one of the employees said. “This is what this hospital was built on is community support.”
The local volunteers had many concerns about the closing of the facility. Guy Canoniko, a former chief of the Lake Erie Beach Volunteer Fire Department, said he believes the loss of the local hospital and emergency room would result in lost lives.
“We’re here to save lives,” he said. “We can do CPR for 10 minutes from our area and have someone here in the ER,” he said, pointing to the entrance just a few yards away.
“If we have to do CPR in the ambulance and ride into Buffalo for 40 minutes, it is going to have a bad effect,” he said.
Canoniko said an additional problem would be getting volunteers who can spare several hours.
Pete Chiavetta of the Farnham Fire Department said most of his company’s emergency calls can be completed in about an hour, round trip from Farnham to the Lake Shore emergency room and back. “What volunteer is going to have five or six hours to ride into Buffalo, wait to get your patient seen and then return?” he asked.
Joel Neu of Versailles Fire Department said he was shocked at the announcement that the facility would be closed. His community is near Gowanda where the hospital was closed after the flood in 2009.
John Fecio, president of Sunset Bay Volunteer Fire Department, said Tuesday’s demonstration included volunteers from Evans, Silver Creek, Hanover Center, Forestville, Gowanda, Lake Erie Beach and Irving.
“We may have lost some of the equipment and volunteers when they got called out to an emergency,” he said. “But everyone here is supporting the hospital and its employees,” he added.
Sunset Bay and Irving are the two companies closest to the doors at Lake Shore Hospital.