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A local solution to a global problem: Congressman Chris Collins visits Bertrand Chaffee Hospital

DISCUSSING THE ISSUES — Hospital CEO Nils Gunnersen, far left, talks about the hospital’s progress with director of nursing Darlene Schrantz, center, and Rep. Collins, during a visit to the hospital’s emergency room.
SPRINGVILLE — New York State District 27 Congressman Rep. Chris Collins visited Bertrand Chaffee Hospital on Aug. 5, to learn more about the local hospital, its operations and fundraising needs.

The congressman toured the hospital’s campus, during which he learned about the new technology and updated facilities, including the digital mammography machine, heart center and other developments the hospital has instituted, within the past few years.

Darlene Schrantz, nursing director for the hospital, told Collins about the hospital’s revival, since it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.

“The community is very proud of this hospital,” Schrantz explained. “The community raised half a million, to help get us out of bankruptcy. In a town like this, that’s a big deal.”

She added that the hospital’s focus is on stabilizing patients who need immediate care and may not have time to get to a larger hospital in Buffalo or Olean.

“If you’re having chest pains or bleeding, this is the place for you,” she noted. “We’re limited in what we can do, because of our size, but what we’re great at is stabilizing the patient, so that when they are transferred, they don’t have to start over.”

ALL LINED UP — Pictured, from left: Springville Mayor William Krebs, Springville Village Supervisor Tim Horner, Congressman Chris Collins and Bertrand Chaffee Hospital CEO Nils Gunnersen, posed for a photo outside the hospital.

Bertrand Chaffee CEO Nils Gunnersen said that the hospital, which serves a largely rural community, is well-placed to serve those residents who need medical attention but may be able to avoid surgical intervention.

“A lot of people present to the emergency room with chest pain and a significant portion of cardiac [patients] can be managed medically,” Gunnersen said. “We are trying to save locals that trip to Buffalo.”

Gunnersen said that, with the rising cost of health care, rural hospitals like BCH are “perfectly placed” to help alleviate some of those costs.

“Rural and local institutions play a big role in decreasing medical costs, for everybody. If we can keep patients out of the bigger hospitals, where surgical intervention is the go-to, we could be part of the solution for lowering costs globally, if we get the attention we think is deserved.”

One of the ways the BCH staff has been working to do that, according to Schranz, has been keeping abreast of current technology and hiring staff that also rotates through larger hospitals in Buffalo, to enable them to keep their skills sharp on more complex presentations not typically seen in Springville.

MAN AND MACHINE — The congressman’s tour included technological advances made at the hospital, including the digital mammography machine, pictured above.

“When we make an investment, we want to make sure we’re always offering the A-level,” Gunnersen said, of technology recently added to the BCH services.

Springville Mayor William Krebs said that, from his perspective, “part of Springville’s identity is as a healthcare center. People come from all around. [The hospital is] great to have, from a business standpoint, too.”

As a former private-sector businessman, Collins said he could appreciate that perspective. “You’re serving the needs of the community,” he said. “And should have a good future, moving forward.”

The Congressman said that, the way he sees it, one of the challenges facing healthcare is the cost of providing healthcare that adheres to current standards of care and technology.

“The way we’re impacting the quality of life and extending life, through new drugs and technology, isn’t free. The care you’re getting today is not the care you’d get, 10 or 20 years ago.”

At BCH, the administration pledged to continue working to provide that level of care, as well as continued updates to its campus and facilities. That includes the parking lot, which Gunnersen said still needs additional funding, to allow for renovation.

“We serve an increasingly frail and elderly population and we need to design ways to access the facility,” he explained, gesturing to the current, potholed and cracked pavement lot. “We’re turning over every rock we can, to lower the cost.”

Collins said that, both as a government official and a businessman, he saw value in tackling a project in small pieces, in the right order and looking in the right places for funding.

“With priorities, and I think you’ve got the right ones, but when the roof is leaking, there’s only so many times you can patch it,” he said. “Whether our state pretends to have money or not, the grants are there. You just have to find the right one, to fit your demographic and your issue. It’s about saying, ‘Here’s the grant. How do we connect the dots?’”

In his current capacity, Collins said he had also noticed that letters of support from officials “do work,” when submitted with a grant application, and agreed to write one, in support of the hospital’s parking lot pavement project.

Overall, Gunnersen said that the congressman’s visit was to “not only see the campus, but to see what he can do to help us keep healthcare local. That’s what we do. That’s why we’re here.”

In turn, Collins said that the tour allowed him to see what was really going on, at the community level.

“You can’t beat getting a tour to get a better understanding of the facility,” Collins said. “The more we can get out and about and listen to the issues, the better.”

Bertrand Chaffee Hospital is located at 222-224 East Main St. in Springville. The hospital can be reached at 592-2871 and can be found online at www.bertrandchaffee.com.

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