MASSENA — The state Department of Health has approved a management agreement between Massena Memorial Hospital and St. Lawrence Health System and, during a special meeting on Thursday, the Massena Memorial Hospital Board of Managers appointed David J. Bender from St. Lawrence Health System as their new chief executive officer.

He replaces Chief Financial Officer Patrick Facteau, who has been serving as interim chief executive officer since March when the board voted to terminate a contract with Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center and its CEO, Charles Gijanto.

The 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.”

“We’ve been really anticipating getting the agreement approved that was developed in close cooperation with the town, the hospital board and the state Department of Health. We got confirmation just yesterday that it was approved. The next step is for St. Lawrence Health System to provide an administrator for this organization,” Mr. Bender said.

“I want to thank Mr. Facteau for stepping up and running our hospital in the interim while we were working on this management agreement,” board Chair Loretta Perez said. “As of today, he will be back as CFO and we are going to make an appointment for a new CEO, managed by St. Lawrence Health.”

Board Vice Chair Real “Frenchie” Coupal wondered if Mr. Bender was working for St. Lawrence Health or Massena Memorial Hospital.

“The recommendation is I would be employed by St. Lawrence Health and working in the role of the CEO at Massena Memorial Hospital,” Mr. Bender said.

“In other words, his salary will be paid by St. Lawrence Health. It will not be paid by Massena Memorial Hospital,” Mrs. Perez said.

She said his salary would be “somewhere in the neighborhood of $37,000-something a month.”

The hospital, however, will be paying St. Lawrence Health System to manage Massena Memorial.

Board members were unanimous in naming Mr. Bender the new CEO, effective at 5:05 p.m. Thursday when the motion was passed.

“I would just like to thank this Board of Managers for the perseverance and the hard work that you did. I know you’ve had to work through a lot and I appreciate all that you did. We’re definitely turning into a new path tonight at 5:05 p.m.,” Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said.

Mr. Bender said the next step is to start turning the hospital’s financial situation around. The hospital has $7 million in accounts payable, in addition to being millions of dollars behind in payments to the New York State and Local Retirement System.

“We are committed to providing a turnaround plan to this board, to this town and to the state within 30 days. So that’s the priority right now. Basically we need to get us from our current state to a financially sustainable position. It will be developed and completed. We’ve made a lot of progress on it already,” Mr. Bender said.

He thanked Mr. Facteau, the board, senior leaders, the medical staff and managers for their support during the process.

“There’s been nothing but good will. What I’ve seen is enormous competency and ability. I’m really, really optimistic about our future,” he said.

Mr. Bender said local officials would need support from the state Department of Health to get things turned around.

“They’ve been very responsive looking at the situation. We don’t have that commitment yet. We’re optimistic. They certainly understand our situation. If we can get through the next short term, I think we have a chance to put a transformation in place. This organization’s future is bright,” he said.

“We must do everything possible to ensure that we continue to have quality, affordable, available health care services for the people of Massena and our region. The hospital’s financial position has continued to deteriorate over the last several years and the Board is hopeful that this partnership will begin to right the financial ship as we continue to focus on the well being of people in our community,” Mrs. Perez said in a news release issued following Thursday’s meeting.

“We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the people served by our municipal hospital continue to have access to quality health care. And as town leaders, we have responsibility to ensure that MMH remains financially viable. I look forward to working with the hospital board and with our new partners at SLHS to ensure continued quality health care for everyone in the region,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said in the news release.

“SLHS is excited to be working with the good people at Massena Memorial Hospital to ensure that quality emergency, medical and health care services continue to be available for the people in and around Massena. We will continue working in partnership with MMH and DOH to develop a turnaround plan focused on the ability to provide those health care services in a way that is financially viable for the community,” St. Lawrence Health System CEO David Acker said in the news release.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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