MASSENA - Suggesting that the town board take on another study before making a decision on the future of Massena Memorial Hospital, a group of employees suggested Wednesday night that the hospital become a critical care facility with a 25-bed capacity, rather than continuing to maintain its current 50-bed capacity.
Denise Campbell suggested having an outside group not connected to the hospital or Civil Service Employees Association take a look at the hospitals finances and ways it could possibly save money. Ms. Campbell is a CSEA labor relations specialist who works with members and union leadership, as well as hospital management at Lewis County General Hospital. She has been helping MMHs CSEA unit throughout the past several months.
The hospital keeps contradicting what we say and we keep contradicting what they say, she said. Hopefully, with an outside group we could get some true numbers.
That statement didnt sit well with Councilman John F. Macaulay, who interpreted the comment as an accusation of fraud.
I dont have a problem with doing a trove of studies. I have a problem when people are accusing people of fraud, he said.
Ms. Campbell said that was not the intent behind her comment., A third party could find something different.
Well then someone should go to jail, he said.
Ms. Campbell also noted that when Lewis County General Hospital went through some difficult financial times it avoided laying people off.
Lewis County didnt have to cut staff because theyre not staffing for 50 beds, she said suggesting that by becoming a 25-bed facility MMH could potentially save a lot of money.
Theyre not using the beds now, she said. A consultant could come in and look at whether they are truly hospital beds or observation beds.
That suggestion appeared to draw the interest of Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray.
So you have no problem changing the status to critical care? he asked.
Mr. Macaulay said though one important piece of information was missing from Ms. Campbells presentation on Wednesday and that was the fact that Lewis County was supplementing the hospital with federal aid that Massena, as a township, would not be eligible for.
The cash burning is accelerating, he said, noting that according to the hospitals latest financial reports they are down to $3.8 million in total cash reserves.
Im not against doing studies, because they give us good information, but we need to do something to get us by.
CSEA representative Wayne Lincoln said that while Mr. Macaulay and members of the town board seem concerned with the hospitals financial status, the hospitals administrators and board themselves dont seem to be.
Its been more than a year since this proposal and not one thing has been done at the hospital. Theyre still spending money like crazy, Mr. Lincoln said.
Mr. Macaulay responded to that statement by saying he was surprised the hospital had not yet laid anyone off.
I question why they havent laid people off, he said, noting 65 percent of the hospitals budget is connected to salaries and benefits.
When you say theyre spending money hand over fist, only 20 percent of their budget is discretionary, he said.
CSEA member Daniel OKeefe noted a suggestion was made to the hospital four years ago, something they have yet to do.
I think thats an important fact, he said.
Tina Hatch, who is employed at MMH, agreed.
If they would have changed insurance companies years ago, they would have some money, she said.
Speaking about her own experience, she noted several instances totaling thousands of dollars in benefits paid by the hospitals self-insured plan, that in her eyes didnt have to be paid.
The hospitals insurance company doesnt negotiate bills, she said. There is a lot of money being spent that shouldnt be.
Deborah Kerr, another hospital employee of the who spoke at the meeting, questioned recent raises given to the hospitals administration and non-union employees.
If youre trying to save money, why are the administrators receiving raises? she asked, noting she did not receive a raise this year.
You didnt get raises, because you dont have a contract, Mr. Gray replied.
Ms. Kerr said, Thats not the point.
Mr. Macaulay said should another study be conducted he would like to see how the numbers play out if all of the hospitals employees were to accept a pay freeze.
I want a three-year wage freeze calculated, he said.
No decision was made Wednesday about whether to conduct another study.