Tonawanda News — There was a void left among the 3,300 patients of Dr. Matthew Bennett, when he was arrested in August by federal authorities and charged with illegally distributing opiate-based medication out of his Clarence home and North Tonawanda office.
Bennett is now facing years in prison and millions in fines if he is convicted of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance, while he is due to appear in U.S. District Court in February for oral arguments regarding motions filed in the case.
His River Road office was shut down as local, state and federal officials swarmed the River Road Wellness Center to obtain evidence.
But on Thursday, less than two months after his arrest, that office was again bustling with activity, though this time it’s under entirely different leadership.
Within weeks of Bennett’s alleged crimes, officials at the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center began formulating a plan to enter the space, after acquiring an emergency certificate of need from New York state, which drastically expedited what is normally months of bureaucratic processes.
Politician after politician lined up to laud that decision Thursday, in a hallway outside the office packed with staff and doctors who already have launched the River Road Primary Care Center. The facility is now offering laboratory collection and primary care services, with nine staff members and “well in excess of 600 patients,” according to Patrick J. Bradley, a hospital spokesman.
While dozen’s of Bennett’s patients were left in distress after the loss of his practice, Bradley said his organization is putting on a full court press regarding efforts to inform the community of the new endeavor, “to let them know that we have care available here.”
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center CEO Joseph Ruffolo said the organization has three other primary care facility in the Cataract City, Wheatfield and Grand Island, while he described putting the newest location together as “trying.”