SCHUMER TURNS UP HEAT ON FEMA TO RELEASE FUNDS FOR RELOCATION OF TRI-COUNTY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL IN GOWANDA; CALLS FEMA AND PRESSES FOR ACTION - WILL PERSONALLY MEET WITH ADMINISTRATOR
Eight Months after Flood Ravaged Region Was Declared a "Federal Disaster Area," FEMA Still Won't Provide Hospital With All The Necessary Funds to Relocate
FEMA Has Offered Some Funding to Rebuild Hospital in Another Location, But So Far Has Refused to Fully Fund It - Current Location Has Been Labeled Flood Plain, and May Not Be Accessible During Flood Emergency
Schumer: FEMA Should Step Up and Do the Right Thing, Acknowledge That Hospital Needs to Be Moved, and Provide
WASHINGTON, D.C. Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he has personally called the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to press him to release all the necessary funds that would allow TriCounty Memorial Hospital to relocate and rebuild the hospital that was wiped out in 2009 by severe flooding. Schumer and Fugate had a positive conversation during which Fugate pledged to give serious and full consideration to TriCounty's proposal, and agreed to meet with Schumer in person next Wednesday. The facility has remained closed since the flooding occurred in August of 2009, and since 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.
"The bureaucratic red tape and foot dragging needs to end and end quickly so we can rebuild this firstrate hospital that people of this area so clearly need," Schumer said. "We've got people in Western New York traveling over 15 miles for emergency care-that's just unacceptable. The sooner we get this project started, the better it will be for Western New Yorkers. Rebuilding in the flood plain is pennywise and pound foolish, and FEMA should make the common sense to decision to spend a bit more money and relocate the hospital."
TriCounty Memorial Hospital was virtually swept away by severe flooding that occurred in August 2009. As soon as the flooding hit, the hospital had to be evacuated and was no longer able to care for patients. Current patients went through the uncomfortable process of moving to another hospital approximately 15 miles away. The storm also took its toll on the economy of Western New York where 200 employees were immediately out of work. Without a hospital of similar size in the vicinity many of these healthcare professionals have struggled to find work in the local community, forcing them to look elsewhere for employment and taking crucial dollars out of Western New York.
Right now, FEMA is offering the hospital approximately $14 million to rebuild the hospital, which is approximately $2,000,000 less than is needed. FEMA says that it cannot offer full funding to move the hospital because the hospital doesn't meet the necessary relocation threshold. Schumer and New York State's Emergency Management Office (SEMO) do not agree with FEMA and say that rebuilding in the current location makes no sense since people may not be able to even reach the hospital in a time of flood, and that the move should be fully paid for by FEMA. Schumer said that FEMA should make the common sense choice and provide for full funding for rebuilding the hospital in an area less susceptible to flooding.
On December 15, 2009, FEMA told the New York State Emergency Management Office that TriCounty 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 TriCounty Memorial Hospital. However, the New York State Emergency Management Office and local code enforcement officers assess the damages to the TriCounty facility to be $10,446,000 and total cost to repair the hospital to be $16,815,000. This translates into repair costs accounting for approximately sixtytwo 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 TriCounty Hospital is eligible for FEMA relocation assistance.
During his call with Administrator Fugate, Schumer requested to meet with the him personally to discuss the situation further and stress the urgent need in the tricounty area for a fully functioning medical facility. Fugate agreed to a meeting and Schumer is hopeful that his upcoming meeting with Fugate will serve as a the next step in the process of getting the TriCounty Hospital back on its feet and back to serving the needs of the community.