FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 29, 2010
Sen. Schumer and Rep. Massa press FEMA to release funds for relocation of Tri-County Memorial Hospital in Gowanda
Five months after Flood ravaged region was declared a "Federal Disaster Area," FEMA Still Not Getting The Job Done
Schumer and Massa Say FEMA has the Power and Responsibility to Get This Done, But Has Waited Too Long to Act Leaving 200 Workers Out of Their Jobs and Residents with Less Access and Longer Trips to Get Health Care—Up to 15 Miles
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Eric Massa sent a joint letter to the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to request that FEMA deliver the funds to relocate the Tri-County Memorial Hospital in Gowanda, NY. Since the 8/9/09 flooding, this facility has remained closed and nearly 200 hospital workers have lost their jobs. In addition to the economic impact of these job losses, there is a more immediate problem facing the citizens of Gowanda as they now have to travel up to 15 miles away to receive medical care in a time of emergency.
Schumer and Massa are asking FEMA to provide funding for the hospital to relocate. The hospital can’t reopen in its current location because insurance companies think that the location is too prone to flooding and therefore won’t cover it. FEMA has told the hospital that they cannot cover relocation costs, but Schumer, Massa, and New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) believe that the law does allow FEMA to cover these costs. Schumer and Massa are today trying to cut through the red tape by appealing to the highest level.
“This is a critical facility that employs hundreds of local residents and provides critical care to residents of Gowanda and the surrounding communities,” said Schumer. “Now, hundreds are out of work and people have to travel significant distances to access health care. There has to be a better way and FEMA can make that happen by providing critical funding to relocate and reopen this hospital.”
"I think the families of Gowanda have waited long enough and that's why I'm joining with Senator Schumer in our effort to get this job done," said Rep. Eric Massa. "The historic flood that struck Gowanda created unimaginable damage to this region and the families that live here deserve swift action to get their hospital up and running again. This is why Senator Schumer and I are asking FEMA to cut through the red tape and get this job done. We are literally talking about an issue of life and death in a time of emergency and we will continue to work aggressively to secure these necessary funds."
The full copy of the letter is attached
The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Administration
500 C Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20472
Dear Administrator Fugate:
We write today to express our concern about the delay in federal support for the relocation of the Tri-County Memorial Hospital in Gowanda, New York. It has been five months since that community was declared a Federal Disaster Area by the Administration as a result of the August 9-10, 2009 flooding, but relocation assistance has yet to be distributed and the hospital remains closed.
As a result of this closure, Tri-County has had to cut nearly 200 jobs. The closure has also forced Tri-County to relocate its services to a hospital that is fifteen miles away, a distance that can mean the difference between life and death. Closure has also forced Tri-County to close radiology labs and highly relied upon chemical dependence units and forced them to eliminate its professional ambulance response service. The hospital’s closure has negatively impacted neighboring communities, too, where patient capacity is outpacing available space and thereby decreasing the quality of care. In essence, the hospital’s closure is taxing the community and local health care services to the extreme and they need help.
TLC Health Network, the operators of the hospital, have been informed by their insurance company that due to the high risk posed by the property's location inside the 100-year flood plain, the insurance company will refuse to provide coverage to them if they attempt to re-open at the current location. The New York State Department of Health has also informed the hospital that they would not endorse the hospital’s Certificate of Need, an approval that is necessary in order for Tri-County to continue to provide health services. It is apparent that re-opening the hospital in a flood hazard area is not a practical alternative because flood mitigation efforts could limit the hospital’s handicap accessibility and undermine patient safety overall, not to mention that the area could be the victim of another major flood.
Unfortunately, on December 15, 2009, FEMA told the New York State Emergency Management Office that Tri-County was not eligible for relocation assistance because eligible damage costs to the hospital comprise only thirty percent of hospital replacement costs. In this letter, FEMA states that this assessment is based on the analysis of information and pictures supplied by Tri-County Memorial Hospital. However, the New York State Emergency Management Office and local code enforcement officers assess the damages to the Tri-County facility to be $10,446,000 and total cost to repair the hospital to be $16,815,000. It is important to note that NFIP code compliance costs have been incorporated into this damage assessment, an allowable cost under 44 CFR Section 206.226(f), section VII(c)(2). This translates to repair costs accounting for approximately sixty-two percent of the replacement costs, exceeding the code’s fifty percent threshold. With damage costs exceeding fifty percent of the repair costs, it is clear that the Tri-County Hospital is eligible for FEMA relocation assistance.
Tri-County Memorial Hospital provides critical health care services to Gowanda and the surrounding communities and the longer it remains out of service, the more lives will be negatively impacted. We respectfully urge your direct involvement in bringing this matter to a rapid and proper resolution.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Charles E. Schumer Eric Massa
United States Senator United States Congressman