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Samaritan Medical Center begins process to figure out Mercy closure plan

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Samaritan Medical Center is beginning to figure out how it will transition from receivership of Mercy Care Center of Northern New York.

According to a May 8 letter from Watertown Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham to City Council members, Samaritan CEO Thomas H. Carman said that Samaritan’s new senior-care complex on outer Washington Street should be complete by Feb. 25, and all residents should be moved from Mercy by April 1. Mercy residents also have the option to relocate to another long-term-care facility.

Samaritan spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said this is just the beginning of Samaritan deciding how to go about Mercy’s closure process. A vice president of long-term care soon will be hired to help lead that planning effort.

“The actual transition from Mercy and closure plan are all a part of that,” Ms. Kittle said. “There’s a lot of planning strategically that has to happen up until that point.”

Ms. Kittle said Feb. 25 is the target date for substantial completion of the 288-bed assisted-living and skilled-nursing facility.

“It’s still to be determined what that means,” she said. “With the patient pavilion, it was a couple of months from substantial completion to moving in. This should go much quicker. The other piece is staffing — it’s 300 employees we’ll be bringing on board at the senior village, and some might be Mercy staff. We are encouraging everyone to apply.”

In the May 8 letter, Mr. Graham said that by the anticipated April 1 deadline, Samaritan’s involvement with Mercy, 218 Stone St., will end and the doors will be locked. The building’s other tenant, a primary care clinic, also will likely be closed. The clinic is not operated by Samaritan.

“That’ll be no longer available after we leave,” Ms. Kittle said. “It’s up to the operators of that clinic.”

The Stone Street buildings will remain property of MGNH Inc., according to the letter, and tax payments made by the hospital will end upon closure next year. Mr. Graham’s letter informed council members that taxes and water bills on the main building are now current.

The letter said: “That would begin again a tax-sale cycle. The nearby parking lots are already in the redemption cycle with ICA holding the first position until 2013 when the city would take title.”

Mr. Graham will be in contact with GE Capital, the lien holder, to determine what the company’s plans are for building maintenance. Once Samaritan removes its employees from the building and Mercy shuts down, it will become an abandoned building.

As the receiver, Samaritan would be able to authorize engineers or architects access to ascertain the prospects for reuse, according to the letter.

The matter may be discussed during this morning’s Advantage Watertown meeting.

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