Massena Memorial Hospital finishes February nearly $400,000 further in the red than anticipated
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 5:51 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- Massena Memorial Hospital finished February nearly a half-million dollars in the red for the month alone, according to a financial and statistical summary they released Monday night.

The document shows the institution suffered a $425,865 net loss. The number defied the hospital’s estimate – they figured on a $60,740 loss for the month of February. Year-to-date, MMH has reported losing $388,181 and budgeted to lose $188,261. The difference is due to an approximate $37,000 net gain for the month of January.

Over the same time last year, they lost $1,044,030. In February 2013, they lost $655,094.

The hospital is looking at going broke by 2017, according to a recent study by FreedMaxick CPAs. Although MMH officials have released limited information, its board will share with the public their full findings on April 10, Town Councilman John Macaulay told a packed room at the board’s March meeting.

He said that after Wayne Lincoln, a vice president of the local CSEA chapter that represents MMH employees, said hospital leadership is refusing to give them the FreedMaxick documents made public by the hospital board in February. He said the entire union is frustrated because they feel the administration is shutting them out.

“We’ve told them we want to be part of the solution, we’ll do anything … but there’s been nothing,” Lincoln said.

Councilman Albert Nicola reminded Lincoln that no matter what the MMH board decides, the ultimate decision rests with the Town Council and the state Department of Health.

“We’re not going to make any decisions until we’re satisfied we have all the information,” Nicola told the room of about 25.

Councilman Samuel Carbone said he won’t feel confident casting a vote until he learns more than what was shared with town officials in a February 24 executive session. He wants to see a list of all employees, who is in what state retirement tier and potential downfalls of privatization.

In the February meeting, FreedMaxick gave the results of their look into the hospital’s future under three scenarios: status quo, becoming a private non-profit and becoming a public benefit corporation.

A limited amount of their findings were made public. By remaining a town entity, MMH will be $3.2 million in the red by 2017, the study suggested.

“If your going to go bankrupt, none of you are going to have jobs,” Macaulay told the MMH contingent.

If they privatize, they could have $7.4 million on-hand by that same year. The numbers were based on projections based on 2010 – 2013.

According to Macaulay’s calculations, the town would have to grossly inflate the tax rate to make up the $3.2 million deficit.

“Every person would pay triple their town taxes,” he said.

At the February meeting, Fahd said another option would be to cut about $4 million from their current operations.

Lincoln said he thinks it could be done because MMH is “spending money like crazy. If we’re in dire straits, why are we spending so much money?”

Many hospital employees are worried about losing their state retirement benefits. Some are only a year or two away from being able to get the maximum payout when they hang up their scrubs.

Heather Gardner, an obstetrical and nursery RN said the state retirement is part of what makes hospital jobs so attractive and some may seek employment out of the area to stay in the system.

“The New York state retirement is so important for us, some of us would have to move,” she said.

Gardner is concerned that hundreds of people that were making decent money, paying taxes and helping fuel the local economy could hurt Massena.

“What are we going to have left? What is our community going to be?” she said.

The town board and the hospital workers all agreed on one thing – no matter what happens, the hospital must remain open.

“When people talk to us on the street, that’s the first question – ‘Are we going to have a hospital?’” he said.