File this one under "Be careful what you ask for." Residents around Women and Children's Hospital, many of who fought to prevent the facility from closing five years ago, now anguish over the expansion plans that the hospital's continued existence requires.
In truth, there is something to worry about. The "Elmwood Village" is one of Buffalo's most charming neighborhoods. Its residents and City Hall have reason to ensure that it remains a vibrant, attractive area of the city.
But residents, and city officials, also have an obligation to accommodate the hospital's legitimate needs, including additional parking and consolidation of its doctors' offices, operating rooms and clinics. After all, were it not for local activism, the hospital would have been closed years ago and relocated to High Street as an adjunct of Buffalo General Hospital. Both facilities are owned by Kaleida Health.
While the hospital has made strides in addressing the financial weaknesses that threatened its survival, it remains unsteady. There will have been no point in saving it if the hospital is not permitted to make the strategic changes that make possible a healthy operation.
Broadly, as Kaleida's leader James Kaskie put it, that means creating "a campus that's easier for patients to access care and for doctors to provide care in a team approach." Thoughtful residents, such as William Sunderlin, president of the Bryant-Oakland-Summer Association, and Ellen Malone, head of the Hodge Avenue Homeowners Association, understand that need, but they want to be included in planning that seeks the best balance possible between the needs of the hospital and the neighborhood.
That is a sensible approach and while the expected need for an environmental impact statement will give the community a chance to influence decisions, the best outcome will be for the hospital and neighborhood representatives to come together ahead of time, each understanding the two reconcilable bottom lines: the Elmwood Village's need to protect a valuable city resource and the hospital's need to survive.