MASSENA - Members of the Massena town council voted 5-0 Wednesday night to hire a consultant to explore the future of Massena Memorial Hospital.
The town will be signing a five-month contract with Newpoint Health Care, a consultant firm based in Phoenix, Ariz., at a cost of $12,000 per month.
While the firm has been signed to a five-month contract, Mr. Gray said he is not expecting the town board to wait five months before deciding how to move forward with the hospital.
“We would hope to make a decision before that five months is up,” Mr. Gray said. “If we were to make a decision tomorrow, they would help us through whatever transition period would be necessary.”
Mr. Gray said the company had previously done work in the north country at Lewis County Hospital.
“They did work for them and Lewis County wanted to stay public,” Mr. Gray said. “Does that mean we’ll be able to stay public? It’s too early to tell.”
Mr. Gray said the firm comes highly recommended from Lewis County Attorney Ray Meier, a former state senator. Mr. Gray worked as an aide to Mr. Meier.
Since discussions began with Newpoint, Mr. Gray said he has been speaking mostly with the firm’s chairman, Joseph R. Lupica, who is a native of Rome, N.Y.and a Cornell University graduate.
“One of the things we liked from our discussions with Mr. Lupica was he doesn’t feel like the decision to privatize is a standalone decision,” Mr. Gray said. “He said once we look at all the other factors the decision will become obvious.”
According to Mr. Gray, Mr. Lupica has already familiarized himself with the town’s situation, but now that his firm is officially hired Mr. Gray said he will get to work in the very near future.
“He will come in and talk to stakeholders here, talk with potential partners and talk with state officials. As he’s gathering that information he’ll bring it back to us.”
Specifically Mr. Gray said Newpoint Health Care is going to look at whether Massena Memorial Hospital would be a feasible critical access hospital, whether the hospital is eligible for IGT (intergovernmental transfer) money and look at the hospital’s pension liabilities should the hospital privatize.
Mr. Gray said some people town officials have spoken with said the town is eligible to IGT money while others have said they are not.
“This will clear that up,” he said.
Mr. Gray said the firm will also take a look at the hospital’s performance and determine “what’s working and what’s not.”
“They’re going to be talking to a while bunch of people, doctors, administrators, members of the hospital board, community leaders and business leaders.
Mr. Gray said the town’s decision to hire a consultant isn’t intended to steer them toward or away from privatization, but rather give them someone that’s looking out for the best interests of the town.
“We felt it was important for us to have representation for the town,” he said. “This is a fresh set of eyes. No one has an agenda one way or another and this is what they do.”
As for the future of the hospital, Mr. Gray said he’s hoping that will become clearer in the future.
“We hope that answer will become clearer in the several weeks,” he said.
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