Town Supervisor says board has enough info, wants to decide Massena Memorial Hospital's future by the end of August
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 5:41 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- Town Supervisor Joseph Gray says he feels the Town Council is ready to decide Massena Memorial Hospital’s future and wants that to happen by the end of August.

“I feel we’re going to have to make a decision some time in August … I feel we have enough information,” he said in a July 23 phone interview.

He made the remark on the heels of a July 22 closed-door meeting with town council members and representatives from Massena Memorial Hospital administration and CSEA and the New York State Nurses’ Association. The meeting was the third time the groups had convened. The sessions were closed, Gray said previously, because no governing body will have a quorum.

That means they are not legally obligated to announce their convention or admit citizen spectators. Gray said the public is restricted because he believes people will speak more freely without worry that their comments will be published.

At the July 22 meeting, union representatives brought forth several cost-saving measures.

“Nothing was really a game-changer,” Gray said.

He noted that proposals included bringing on another gastroenterologist and orthopedic surgeon.

“It’s one thing to say [it], it’s another to actually get one here,” Gray said.

He said other ideas included starting a cardio-pulmonary rehabilitative service and switching to a traditional health insurance plan. MMH employees’ current coverage allows the hospital to bill at a higher rate if they seek in-house treatment, but the monthly premium is much higher. He said the union claimed to be able to save $1 million by switching plans.

“It was a good discussion and they brought up some good things,” Gray said.

Broke By Next Year?

Massena Memorial Hospital could be broke in as little as 18 months, according to a report its public relations department released late last week.

The report outlines a number of scenarios for the hospital’s future and forecasts losing so much money this year that MMH could run out of money and cease to operate “likely in the next 18 months” if no action is taken.

To read the 22-page report in its entirety, go to http://northcountrynow.com/webfm_send/55 .

The report cites the New York state pension system as a major drain on its cash flow. They say they will owe upwards of $4 million into the system by the end of the year. They also point to dwindling reimbursement rates from Medicaid.

The report says if MMH privatizes, they will turn a small profit in 2015, but go back into the red after that. Hospital officials say privatization is not a cure-all.

“Transitioning to a financially independent nonprofit would set MMH on a course to strengthen its financial operations and collaborate with other health care organizations while ensuring continued access to quality local health care and preserving jobs,” the report says.

Bleeding Money

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.

On July 21, MMH reported finishing June with a $125,881 net loss, about a $225,000 difference than the $100,096 gain that had been forecast.

Total number of inpatient cases was 219, 18 more than projected, and outpatient registrations totaled 11,937 compared with 11,482 budgeted. Observation visits totaled 65 compared to 79 planned. To date, the hospital has seen a $2,149,870 net loss, according to the summary distributed Monday at the MMH Board of Managers meeting. That compares to a budgeted gain of $377,022.

The hospital doesn’t have a negative balance on the books and offsets the deficit with cash reserves, MMH CFO James Smith said previously.