Some towns back hospital referendum

Some towns around Massena are throwing their support behind a referendum that will be on the Election Day ballot, asking voters to allow Massena Memorial Hospital’s assets to be sold to St. Lawrence Health System. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Some towns around Massena are throwing their support behind a referendum that will be on the Election Day ballot, asking voters to allow Massena Memorial Hospital’s assets to be sold to St. Lawrence Health System.

Among them is the Brasher Town Board, which unanimously passed a resolution during its meeting on Oct. 9. The Louisville Town Board also passed a resolution supporting the transfer of the assets during its meeting this month.

The Brasher and Louisville resolutions noted that the town boards “supports the resolution authorizing the town of Massena to transfer the real estate assets used in the operation of Massena Memorial Hospital to St. Lawrence Health System.”

The Brasher resolution said the state Department of Health “has agreed to invest $20 million into Massena Memorial Hospital provided that Massena Memorial Hospital becomes a New York not-for-profit hospital operated by St. Lawrence Health Systems.”

In addition, it said, “St. Lawrence Health System has agreed to invest $8 million of its own money into Massena Memorial Hospital,” and without the investments by the Department of Health and St. Lawrence Health System, “Massena Memorial Hospital would not be viable resulting in the loss of important health care resources for St. Lawrence County, the loss of hundreds of well-paying jobs, and the imposition of a massive obligation on the taxpayers to the town of Massena.”

The hospital’s Board of Managers and the Massena Town Council had agreed in May “to the concept of entering into a management and operations agreement with St. Lawrence Health System,” with St. Lawrence Health System “providing management, operational strategy and guidance to Massena Memorial Hospital, subject to active oversight and supervision by the New York State Department of Health.”

The management agreement between Massena Memorial Hospital and St. Lawrence Health System was approved by the state Department of Health in June, and allowed St. Lawrence Health System to take over day-to-day management of Massena Memorial Hospital under the leadership of David J. Bender, who was appointed as chief executive officer following the state’s approval of the agreement.

On July 30, the hospital’s Board of Managers and Massena Town Council met separately to approve three resolutions. Among them was to accept a $20 million grant from the state Department of Health and authorize an asset transfer agreement between Massena Memorial Hospital and St. Lawrence Health.

The grant funding was contingent on the St. Lawrence Health System creating an entirely new nonprofit entity that would acquire Massena’s assets and operate the hospital as part of St. Lawrence Health System.

That led the hospital’s Board of Managers, Massena Town Council and St. Lawrence Health System to sign an agreement to convert Massena Memorial from a public to a private, not-for-profit hospital that would be part of St. Lawrence Health System, along with Canton-Potsdam and Gouverneur hospitals.

St. Lawrence Health System has also agreed to provide $8 million toward the hospital’s operation.

The Massena Town Council unanimously passed a resolution on Aug. 26 to sell surplus Massena Memorial Hospital property to St. Lawrence Health System and set up a mandatory referendum that will be included as part of the Election Day vote on Nov. 5. Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy and Council member Samuel D. Carbone Jr. said this week that the Nov. 5 vote needed to be positive to maintain the jobs and services at Massena Memorial Hospital.

The hospital will hold its next regular Board of Managers meeting on Monday.

“We just received our packet. Things are looking better there,” Mr. Carbone said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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