MMH union: Massena Town Council should hold off privatization vote until public gets all the facts; public meeting Thursday
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 5:42 pm

MASSENA -- Workers at Massena Memorial Hospital are urging members of the Massena Town Council to hold off on making any decision on converting the municipal hospital to a private, not-for-profit facility.

Mark Kotzin, spokesman for the CSEA workers at the hospital, says the employees want the town to wait until town residents have had time to review financial projections and examine possible alternatives, and if it comes to it, have their say in a public referendum.

The hospital’s board of managers recently voted in favor of privatizing the hospital’s ownership, based on a consultant’s report that has not been released publicly, Kotzin said.

On Thursday, April 10, the town board has scheduled a public meeting at 5 p.m. to discuss the hospital’s future. There will be a presentation and members of the Town Council and public will get to ask questions afterward.

“But the hospital’s employees are crying foul over the way the hospital’s conversion to a non-profit status has been portrayed to the public and are demanding more public input,” Kotzin said.

Kotzin said Massena Hospital CSEA Local 887 President Wayne Lincoln, of the union representing hospital employees, the hospital’s workers feel hospital management has ignored multiple cost-saving suggestions and failed to look into alternatives other than privatization. The workers, he said, are concerned that giving up community ownership by town residents will mean a loss of local control over hospital services and the possibility of eventual closure if financial goals are not met.

“Unfortunately, our hospital CEO has been single-mindedly focused on giving up on our community ownership, without fully examining alternatives” Lincoln said. “Our workers have offered millions of dollars in savings initiatives that have been simply ignored or rejected by Mr. Fahd. This is the public’s hospital and they deserve to have a full accounting of their options.”

Kotzin said the union has offered to include switching to a different health plan, projected to save $860,000, and the workers could accept a wage freeze and higher benefit costs. Additional alternatives could include switching the hospital to a “critical access” designation.

The union also believes that cost projections from the hospital’s consultant may not be accurate in part because of assumptions of rising pension costs, when pension costs, the union said, are in fact declining, health insurance costs could be decreasing due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Lincoln says that the public should have full access to the consultant’s report before any decisions are made by the town board.

“It would be putting the cart before the horse for the town board to vote on switching the hospital’s ownership before the public has a chance to fully review and digest the consultant’s study findings and confirm the accuracy of the numbers that they’ve been throwing around.”

Lincoln said that the union believes the hospital should not be privatized, but if the town does decide to privatize, the final authorization should be subject to a public referendum vote, since the hospital was created in 1942 by public referendum.

“This is the public’s hospital. We know we can work together to find enough savings to keep this hospital publicly owned, but if the town board believes otherwise, our residents deserve to have the final say in this, after all, they created it.”

The hospital workers are urging members of the public to attend the town board meeting Thursday night.