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MMH employees seeking information from hospital

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MASSENA - Massena Memorial Hospital employees told town officials they met with hospital CEO Charles F. Fahd II on Wednesday but were denied a copy of the recently completed financial analysis.

Wayne Lincoln, who works at the hospital and is a member of its CSEA unit, said he was told the report, which was reported on at the hospital’s last board meeting, was only a rough draft and wouldn’t be available until April 10.

“The report they presented at the meeting should have been made available. The FreedMaxick (the name of the firm which completed the report) report was presented in an open meeting,” Councilman John F. Macaulay said. “The plan is to have a public presentation on April 10, so that’s where April 10 came from.”

Mr. Lincoln also said he has heard that a decision on the hospital’s future is growing near.

“There’s a rumor it will be Monday night,” he said, referring to the date of the next hospital board meeting. “We’re just asking that no decision is made until we get all of the information.”

Deputy Supervisor Albert N. Nicola, who ran Wednesday night’s meeting in the absence of Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, said he understood where the employees were coming from.

“What you’re saying is what we’re feeling,” he said. “We’re not going to make any decisions until we feel like we have all the information. I think we’re pretty much in the same boat.”

Mr. Nicola did say though, that the draft report, which town board members have seen, was “pretty comprehensive.”

“That’s what we want a copy of it,” Denise Campbell said.

As employees of the hospital, Mr. Lincoln said they should be given copies of the report prior to its public presentation.

“As employees and very concerned citizens, it would be nice to have some of that information before it’s presented to the public,” he said.

Mr. Nicola said he would share those concerns with hospital administrators on Thursday.

Mr. Macaulay said while the report will likely be touched on his understanding is that the meeting will discuss what’s next for the hospital.

“The vast majority of the presentation will be, ‘If a decision is made what do we do going forward,’” he said.

While many of the employees said they believe the hospital board has already made a decision, Mr. Nicola said the town board has not yet done so.

“No decision has been made,” he said. “At least here, no decision has been made.”

Councilman Samuel D. Carbone Jr. also said he has yet to make up his mind.

“I’ve requested additional information. As far as financials, I’m developing a list of questions I have before I make my decision,” he said, noting he also asked for comparisons of salaries and benefits and how MMH compares to other area hospitals.

Tammy Kirkey, who has worked at the hospital for more than 20 years, said longtime employees who are close to closing out their careers with New York state benefits are worried about the impact a change in the hospital’s municipal status would have on their retirement.

Referring to a similar situation at another hospital that became private, Ms. Kirkey said, “The tenured employees were allowed to finish the New York State retirement system, but the new employees didn’t get it. Is there any chance of that happening here?”

Mr. Carbone replied, “Hopefully something can be worked out. We don’t want to see people leaving the hospital left and right.”

Heather Gardner said that’s exactly what will happen should the hospital lose its municipal status.

“The New York state retirement is important to us. Some of us will have to move. How will that affect the community?” she asked.

While that may be the case, Mr. Macaulay said there’s more at stake here than the retirement benefits of the hospital’s employees.

“You can’t run on an operation with a negative cash flow. You’re looking at a bankruptcy situation. Then none of you have jobs,” he said. “My main objective through this whole thing is what do we have to do to keep this place open?”

Mr. Nicola said from speaking with people around town that too is the goal of the majority of Massena’s citizens.

“When people talk to us on the streets, their number one concern is, ‘Will we have a hospital?’ ‘What are you going to do to save the hospital?’” he said.

After being asked whether or not there is any evidence that going from a municipal hospital to a non-profit will actually save the hospital money, Mr. Macaulay, citing information from the FreedMaxick report, said that should the hospital become a non-profit it’s expected to bank $6.6 million through 2018. Should things remain the same, those projections instead have the hospital $7.7 million in the red.

“It’s basically a $14 million swing,” Mr. Macaulay said. “If we decide not to change and we know there’s going to be negative cash flow, that would be irresponsible.”

In order to stay afloat, Mr. Macaulay said the hospital would have to cut $4 million from its operating costs.

“If you have any ideas bring them to that April 10 meeting,” Mr. Carbone said.

Mr. Macaulay added that information on how much money those ideas would save would also be helpful.

“If you have a list of grand ideas, how much is that going to save? We need to know,” he said. “If it saves $1 million that’s not enough. If it saves $5 million it’s great.”

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