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Niagara County Community College officials are taking a preliminary look at the concept of building a health care center to provide medical services for area residents while increasing the college's capacity to train health-care workers.

NCCC President Gerald L. Miller told college trustees Wednesday that architects say NCCC needs another 12,000 square feet of space for its training programs in allied health fields. If that space is created, Miller said, the college could become a central point for health care in the county.

Currently, there are no vacancies in the college's health education programs, he said, because there is a limit on the number of clinical areas where students can serve as interns and it is difficult to recruit enough doctors to work with the students.

"The college is very excited about trying to expand on-campus clinical sites," Miller said.

He said three hospitals would be asked to cooperate in the venture, but he did not name the hospitals.

According to the concept, the primary care center on the campus would be staffed by the hospitals, providing units for radiology, neurological services, physical therapy, technology, and medical assistants. "It's a dream, really, in terms of initial discussion," Miller said.

The medical site would be located at the southwest corner of the campus along Cambria-Lewiston Townline Road, he said. Miller added that he planned to seek proposals for the project during the next few months.

The addition could increase enrollment in the allied health fields by 25 percent, he said. There are currently 400 to 450 in the field. With much of the health care field turning to in-home care, Miller said the college would train nurses to take care of people in their homes. "Within six miles circumference of our campus, there are 18,000 to 20,000 persons who have no access to a hospital at all," he said.

If the board decides to build the addition, Miller said, it could save the college about $500,000 in ventilation work in the C Building, because all of the laboratories situated there would be moved into the new addition.

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