Town officials praised for push to sell Massena hospital assets

Steven D. O’Shaughnessy

MASSENA — Massena Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy and town council members received praise on Monday for continuing to push an affiliation with St. Lawrence Health System despite intentions by former hospital Board of Managers members to affiliate with Crouse Hospital and Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center/North Star Health Alliance.

“I just think it would be a shame if we left this meeting tonight without saying thank you to the town board,” Roxanne Roberts said during Monday’s special Massena Town Council meeting.

She said if hospital officials had continued on another path, they would not have received a “legitimate offer to purchase our assets of the hospital.” But, she said, Mr. O’Shaughnessy “stepped forward and saw that we were in dire straits financially regardless of what some of the board members were saying. We needed to do something. Thank goodness it happened.”

Because of Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s actions, Ms. Roberts said, “He was bad-mouthed really bad in this community. He was maligned. He was called names. Yet he persevered and he went forward, and I think we owe you a debt of gratitude and all of the board and current hospital board members who have supported and have an open mind to keep our hospital open.”

Hospital board Chair Loretta Perez said she was “one of those naysayers.”

“I fought you tooth and nail. You know I did. When you asked me if I wanted to remain on the board, my question to you was, ‘Are you sure? Because you know that I disagree with you.’ I am eating my words because I am taking responsibility for being misinformed and not having all of the information we should have had as board members that I feel I do have now,” she said.

Mrs. Perez said they had been told months ago that St. Lawrence Health System was “predatory.”

“They are not predatory. They are looking out for our best interest. We have anguished over this. We have made the right decision,” she said. “I have been very impressed with what I have seen. I have learned so much in five months that I didn’t know in five years and I do thank you.”

“She agonized over one thing — how many jobs can we save, how many jobs can we lose. The thing is, if the hospital closes, we lose them all. To keep the jobs, we have to have the hospital,” Deputy Supervisor Albert Nicola said.

Council member Melanie Cunningham, who had served on the hospital board for five years, said they had received misinformation during her time on the board.

“I do have to commend you, Loretta. I know what it’s like. I was part of the hospital board for five years, and we were only told certain information. We asked questions and we were shut down. We asked questions and we were still shut down. Thank god the truth is finally coming out and people are being told of how much debt and how much it needs to be there. We need to have a hospital and the truth has come out, and I thank the Massena Memorial Hospital Board of Managers,” Mrs. Cunningham said.

Sue Mackey, president of the hospital’s Civil Service Employees Association, also thanked the board.

“It’s been a rough road and everything, but we stuck with it. In our meeting, CSEA stands behind you to go with St. Lawrence Health System,” she said.

“We appreciate that,” Councilman Samuel D. Carbone Jr. said.

The gist of it

n WHAT: Audience members at a special Massena Town Council meeting commended Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy and the board for their perseverance in pushing for an affiliation with St. Lawrence Health System

n WHY: They said previous member of the hospital’s Board of Managers had wanted to affiliate with Crouse Hospital and Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center/North Star Health Alliance with no financial incentive for Massena Memorial Hospital

n THE INCENTIVE: By linking up with St. Lawrence Health System, the hospital is eligible for a $20 million grant, as well as $8 million that St. Lawrence Health System said they’ll contribute toward the hospital’s operation

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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