A desperately essential lifeline of health care is preserved and a creative strategic initiative is the blueprint. Recently we were made aware through the public press and other venues regarding: "three local hospitals will take a giant step forward." We say "well done" and congratulate the architects of the plan.

Brooks Memorial Hospital, the TLC Network made up of Lake Shore Hospital and Tri-County Hospital, and Westfield Memorial Hospital have taken an historic step. These three organizations have announced an agreement on a coordinated plan for the future and the public is the beneficiary. The hospital administrators and the respective Boards are to be highly commended and we do so in this column.

As we understand it, the proposal was the outcome of a Hospital Restructuring Task Force. The plan calls for Brooks Memorial Hospital and the TLC Health Network to consolidate their hospital systems to increase efficiencies and reduce duplications. Further, an active affiliation with Westfield Memorial Hospital is a part of the overall plan. In addition to this structural arrangement, there is a creative partnering plan for an affiliation between TLC and Bertrand Chaffee in Springville.

As we see it, these collaborative plans will be distinct benefits to the Hospitals but even more importantly to the communities they serve. There are other public service organizations that could profit from this kind of thinking.

Recently, "rightsizing" had been a creative initiative pursued by these local facilities. They were on the right track then and they are now. Many have spoken of the outstanding quality hospital services which have been available and provided by a most competent, dedicated and caring staff. One can document the lives which have been spared and the trauma which has been treated because of the availability of quality facilities and superior services within reach of those they serve. It appears that the new proposed collaborative plan will go a long way to assure a continuation of the delivery of hospital care services to our communities in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and southern Erie counties.

This plan appears to give reassurance that: emergency rooms will be available; outpatients and in-patient services will continue to be provided in some form; laboratory facilities and radiology centers will remain in tact; appropriate and essential therapeutics will be readily available and long term care availability will continue to be provided. The availability of these services is an essentiality for the people of this area. In short, a dependent, vast, rural and semi-urban population of people is reliant on the continued viability of these professional services and units.

It is refreshing to know that rationality won out. To close or reduce the TLC network, and the hospitals in Westfield, Dunkirk, and Springville would have been a tragic loss to the community at large. A gapping hole would have been left in rural western New York and lives could possibly have been held in the balance. This collaboration meets the needs of efficiency without sacrificing the health care of individuals and endangering the welfare of the public.

Again, commendations are extended to the architects of the plan. As we see it, the overall arrangement allows for a number of innovative ventures. For example, it will allow for optimal use of physical assets resulting in less expensive rebuilding and refurbishing of the existing facilities. Cooperative working together will allow for the recruitment of physicians to a stronger and more varied base of health-care services to this enlarged region. And further, there are anticipated advantages organizationally in capital efficiency through participative partnering. But when all is said and done, the bottom line advantage of the plan is.... it will maximize hospital health care accessibility to an enlarged population that would otherwise have serious limited comprehensive available treatment in the localized area. And that is the bottom line advantage to men, women and children of all ages from whatever direction. That is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.