Some positions cut at St. Lawrence County WIC provider’s parent agency
Monday, January 13, 2014 - 5:15 pm

Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown says it has laid off some people and won’t fill some vacant positions to make a more sustainable future for the North Country Family Health Center.

Samaritan outlined priority focus areas and changes in processes and structure that will result in a stronger agency, Samaritan said in a news release.

Samaritan announced that seven vacant positions at the Watertown based NCFHC will not be filled and that five more people have been laid off, including two managers.

Samaritan was appointed in October as temporary operator of the NCFHC, formerly known as North Country Children’s Clinic, when the services of the center were halted due to a revenue gap.

Those services included the Women’s, Infants and Children’s (WIC) nutrition program in St. Lawrence County, which was suspended before Samaritan signed on and extra funding was found.

The goal of the state Health Department-approved management arrangement with Samaritan’s leadership was to assist the agency to stabilize operations to ensure its long-term viability to continue to serve the community. Since then, the state Department of Health, SMC and the North Country Family Health Center have worked in close collaboration to develop a plan to revivify the organization.

A work plan has been submitted to the Department of Health, SMC and the North Country Family Health Center.

The highlights of the plan are:

• improve revenue by outsourcing billing, reducing no-show rates, obtain certification as a Level III Patient Centered Medical Home (currently Level II) and increase provider capacity for seeing patients

• reduce expenses with a restructure and consolidation of operations, such as not filling seven vacant positions and one expected retirement this spring; layoff of five employees, three in December as part of the billing transition, and two management positions effective Jan. 13.

• pursuing loan and grant opportunities. Some funding has been secured, including $100,000 from NNY Community Foundation and $32,500 from the New York State Health Foundation. A $100,000 funding request is pending.

• refinancing NCFHC mortgage; two short-term loans to Community Bank and Watertown Trust were paid in November; payback short-term loan from Samaritan Medical Center.

• address delinquent vendor payable balances.

• optimize functionality of electronic medical record and improve data collection to monitor and improve efficiency and productivity.

• reapply for Federally Qualified Health Center –designation and funding; open Lowville dental/medical site, continue to serve homeless

• collaborate with community leaders to improve board of directors and develop board education opportunities.

During the crisis stage last fall, some WIC appointments in St. Lawrence County were canceled and it was unsure if they would resume.

The agreement among NCFHC, Samaritan Medical Center and the Department of Health enabled the agency to resume its WIC and other agency functions.

Samaritan says in a news release that North Country Family Health Center is expected to end 2014 with a near break-even budget and positive cash flow in order to continue its operations without any interruption in services to patients.