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By Robert L. Heichberger

What a shocker it was. When we heard the startling announcement that Lake Shore Health Care Center was going to close its doors, we were completely devastated. The official announcement made by the Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York was unbelievable.

An absolute imperative for this area is available, appropriate, 24/7 hospital care. And, in a health care emergency, distance is of the essence; timing is critical.

All of us recall the catastrophic flood that occurred in the Gowanda area four years ago. Because of the flood, the demise of Tri-County Hospital in Gowanda seriously impacted a broad spectrum of the population. And then, on top of that, there came the calamitous news about the closing of the Lake Shore hospital campus. The news has been utterly devastating.

People of all ages in the Gowanda and Lake Shore area depend on its facilities and services for quality health care. We call on federal, state, regional and local officials to move expeditiously to create a transformational plan for the continuation of the Lake Shore facility.

The availability of hospital services is vital to a growing population of elderly. And we haven’t even mentioned the positive impact a creative resolution would have on jobs and the local economy.

An earlier generation of citizens recognized the medical needs of the people and moved forward with the development and construction of both the Lake Shore and Tri-County hospitals. The need is still there.

Patients and their families come from a broad geographical region – Little Valley to Cherry Creek, from the Amish Trail to North Collins and Forestville and well beyond the expanse of the Routes 5 and 20 corridor – to use the Lake Shore facility.

A local hospital is a necessity for this area. Let it be said that our current generation of leadership recognizes its health care mission.

Let it be said that our leaders of today are as resilient as those of the past, and will meet the challenges of the present and future health care needs. They, along with all of us, must respond with constructive determination. For you see, it is the pressing health needs of the people, from the youngest to the most elderly, that must serve as the ultimate priority.

Maintaining vibrant hospital services to this broad and very much in need geographical region is essential. As a united body, we can do no less. Together we must stand: the people, the staff and the board. What a powerful triangulation.

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at SUNY Fredonia State and a distinguished professor at Capella University. He has served as vice president of the Tri-County Hospital board of directors.