Town supervisor wants more details about Massena Memorial Hospital operations before deciding whether it should be privatized
Friday, February 28, 2014 - 6:03 am

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- Town Supervisor Joseph Gray says he wants more detailed information about specific areas of Massena Memorial Hospital’s operations before making his mind about whether it should remain a public institution or privatize.

“I’d like to see how some of the other (privatized) hospitals in the area perform, and some of the other (MMH) clinics,” Gray said. “I think we need to take a look at all the facets of hospital operations and how they fit into the big picture.”

He cited as examples MMH clinics, such as those located in Brasher and on outer Maple Street in Massena.

“Just try to get an idea of the medical office buildings – how they stack up, expenses versus revenue,” according to Gray. “FreedMaxick may have done some of that work, but we didn’t see it the other night.”

Freed Maxick CPAs, a private firm hired by MMH to look at their finances, told the Board of Managers on Monday night they will be broke by 2017 as a town entity. Their presentation included a breakdown of net gains or losses and cash on-hand over the last several years and projected those numbers through 2018. Between 2015 and 2018, the CPA firm projects the hospital to cumulatively lose $10,598,000 as a public entity, but to see a cumulative net gain of $4,098,000 if it goes private.

Gray said FreedMaxick looked at a third possibility – shifting to a public benefit corporation. But the result is not anticipated to be any better than staying on their current path.

“It’s the same course as if the hospital made no change,” according to Gray. “The scenario that painted a different picture is if you went to a private, not-for-profit hospital.”

MMH Chief Executive Officer Charles Fahd said on Monday that they would have to slash “$4 million annually moving forward,” including “a massive loss of jobs from the hospital” if it remains a public entity.

“It would require the town of Massena to fund the deficit through the tax rolls at an approximate tax levy of $3.2 million per year,” a statement from FreedMaxick reads.

“I don’t think that’s a viable option,” Fahd told the board on Monday when talking about the potential of town taxes supporting MMH.

Hospital officials are looking at the potential transition for a myriad of reasons, including shrinking reimbursements and directives from the state Department of Health to look at regional collaborations and partnerships. They believe there are too many facilities for the North Country’s population, Town Supervisor Joseph Gray said at a Town Council meeting in November.

The hospital saw an overall $3,310,000 net loss from operations in 2013 and ended the year with $4,986,000 cash on-hand – a $1,855,000 reduction from the previous year. They are projecting a $1,312,000 loss for 2014.

For the month of January, they reported a $37,325 net gain, compared to a $389,415 net loss for January 2013. MMH Chief Financial Officer James Smith said the gain is due to new Ob-Gyn services and the MMH Outpatient Center, formerly Seaway Orthopedics Physical Therapy.