Assemblywoman Russell introduces bill to allow Massena Memorial to affiliate without privatizing, Town Council tables action
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - 8:34 pm

Updated 3:15 p.m. June 16

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- Assemblywoman Addie Russell, D-Theresa, has put forward a bill in the Assembly that would allow Massena Memorial Hospital to affiliate with other institutes without privatization. However, the Town Council on Wednesday night tabled supporting or refuting the proposal until they could hear the MMH board’s thoughts.

“I would like input from the hospital before a vote,” Town Supervisor Joseph Gray said.

“We need his (MMH CEO Robert Wolleben) opinion … its his hospital,” Councilman Albert Nicola said.

The council’s resolution to table passed 3-2, with councilmen Samuel Carbone and Steve O'Shaugnessy dissenting.

In December, he came out in favor of making MMH a quasi-municipal public benefit corporation.

On Wednesday, he pushed the board to support Russell’s bill.

“You can sit here and wait for the transfer agreement … but if you have nothing to fall back on … it’s a bargaining tool for us,” Carbone said.

The hospital is in the process of submitting a certificate of need to severe ties with the town and privatize. Once that happens, they can merge or affiliate with larger hospitals. Wolleben has said in the past that municipal status precludes the ability to merge.

Gray said he doesn’t think its likely the state government would be able to do anything this session, which has less than a week to go. It would have to clear both legislative houses, plus get the governor’s signature, but there’s no companion bill in the Senate.

“I don’t think it will be done this session. It will probably be in January,” he said. “(Sen. Joe) Griffo’s office said they will do what the town board wants them to do.”

Councilman Tom Miller said he likes the idea of being able to get more information before voting.

“Addie was here in January. I wish this would have been done sooner so we could do homework. Now we’re rushed,” Miller said.

Councilman Steve O’Shaughnessy said he thinks it might be a good idea to have it in case the town needs it.

“They want to privatize and it may not be in the interest of the Town of Massena,” he said.

"I do support Assemblywoman Russell's bill to allow our municipal hospital to affiliate and I would encourage Senator Griffo to support it in the Senate," he said in an email after the meeting.

The board ended the discussion with an informal agreement to look into hiring their own firm to value the hospital. MMH has a law firm doing their own study.

“What I would like to see happen is a valuation from our standpoint, what would it cost to do a valuation and who should we hire,” he said.