By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- At a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, the Town Council tasked Massena Memorial Hospital administration, unions and employees to come up with an alternative plan for privatization that cuts $8 million from expenses over the next three years.
"We don't know that ‘plan B’ will be acceptable to us, the employees or the hospital board and administration. We feel there needs to be more than one option to choose from," Town Supervisor Joseph Gray said.
He wouldn't reveal the exact date by which MMH officials are to report back, but said it is in the next 30 to 60 days.
There will be a public meeting later in the month to give updates on the search into an alternative to privatization, according to Gray.
The Wednesday meeting was closed to the public because "there was no quorum of any body present," according to Gray.
"I wanted it to be a frank and honest discussion. I wanted people to feel free to disagree, to state their position without worry it will be public the next day," Gray said.
The $8 million figure is based on looking "at what the loss has been and what the pension payment is," according to Gray.
MMH ended March $452,658 in debt. MMH CEO Charles Fahd said at an April 10 meeting that they will owe more than $4 million to the state pension system by the end of the year.
Fahd, through MMH director of public relations Tina Corcoran, would not comment on the Wednesday meeting.
“He wants to defer any comment … until he meets with the full board of managers and they can all talk about it,” Corcoran said.
Gray said he and other town officials are frustrated with both MMH officials and union heads.
"We're frustrated by only one real choice from the hospital, that being privatization. We're frustrated by [MMH unions] insisting they can save mega bucks," Gray said.
Union leaders have claimed at past town board meetings that they could make significant saving by switching health insurance plans, among other measures.
MMH employees are opposed to privatization because they would not be able to claim maximum New York state retirement benefits.
Gray said he has heard "overtures from unionized employees willing to look at dramatic [cuts] to keep their pensions … to the extent of accepting wage freezes and some other things."
The MMH Board of Managers voted in March to recommend privatization.
They cite a report from FreedMaxick CPAs, hired financial consultants, that claims they will be bankrupt by 2017 if they remain a municipal entity.