By IRENE KOCH
When Gowanda Tri-County Hospital was destroyed by flood in 2009, we lost an emergency room that was available to 20,000 residents.
This past year we learned that a replacement hospital will not be built. At the present time there are five hospital emergency rooms serving 280,000 persons in a 3,000-square-mile region, mostly rural with difficult winter driving conditions. Three emergency rooms are located at the extreme northern end of this region and two exist at the extreme southern end.
Recently it was announced that Lake Shore will close in January leaving only four emergency rooms for 280,000 persons. And 70 percent of those residents are 30 minutes away from an ER. Given an average wait of 20 to 25 minutes for the ambulance to arrive at the call site, it could take as much as an an hour to reach an emergency room. In some cases that is a death sentence.
Although TLC is currently expanding its urgent care in Gowanda, the request for addition of a 24-hour emergency room was denied. This is unacceptable.
Agriculture and lumbering are significant industries in this tri-county area. Life-threatening injuries are not uncommon given the types of machinery and activities related to the work. Lightning strikes, multiple bee stings and unruly animals pose additional risks in the rural environment.
Also there is the aging population subject to stroke and heart attack requiring speedy access to appropriate emergency treatment. Time is critical to a positive outcome.
In further support of a Gowanda ER facility is the village proximity to the Zoar Valley Gorge with its abundant tourist activity, namely river rafting and hiking. Frequent rescue calls require Gowanda firemen to be first responders. Time consuming rescue efforts and critical injuries are a combination for disaster even with a nearby emergency room.
Irene Koch is a Gowanda resident.