By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- Town Supervisor Joseph Gray wants Massena Memorial Hospital to start a consultant relationship with St. Lawrence Health Systems, which owns Canton-Potsdam and Gouverneur Hospitals.
"St. Lawrence Health Systems is setting a new standard for health care in St. Lawrence County and I believe the Town of Massena should immediately seek to establish a relationship with this corporation," Gray said.
"That relationship could take several different forms, but its [sic] seems that making SLHS an affiliation consultant to MMH would enable us to collectively look at ways to quickly improve Massena Memorial’s financial performance and assure its standard of care remains high and even possibly improves."
The Massena Town Council is looking at privatizing the hospital, which requires their vote.
"I don't think that will happen before or at the August 20 meeting," Gray said.
He said he's started talks with St. Lawrence Health Systems and they have been "very positive."
Gray thinks they will be able to right some of the wrongs that have lead to MMH's financial state.
"A persistent and damaging billing problem threatens the hospital’s financial stability, as do systematic changes in health care brought about by the Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare)," Gray said in a statement. In a phone interview, he said SLHS personnel may be able to suggest positive changes in that area, among others.
"The hospital’s failure to be proactive in addressing budgetary items like employee health insurance, staffing, physicians’ insurance credentialing, and costly performances of clinics like the kidney dialysis unit have created a perfect financial storm which threatens the very existence of our municipally-owned hospital," according to Gray.
He also cites the ever-rising New York state pension system payments, which this year is about $4.4 million, compared to a fraction of that 10 years ago.
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, which is a $1,855,000 reduction from the previous year.