MASSENA — Massena Memorial Hospital physicians were among those in the audience when the Massena Town Council met Monday to move forward with the sale of hospital real estate to St. Lawrence Health System, and they shared their support for affiliating with the organization.
Dr. Bedros Bakirtzian noted that, because St. Lawrence Health System had taken over the day-to-day operations of Massena Memorial Hospital, the town was in line to receive a $20 million grant from the state Department of Health, as well as $8 million from St. Lawrence Health System to put toward the hospital’s operations. He said St. Lawrence Health System was the only organization to “come up and put their money down on this hospital.”
“We as a medical staff have a great working relationship with the medical staff at Potsdam,” he said.
Dr. Bakirtzian said, in many cases, Massena residents were traveling to Canton-Potsdam Hospital for treatment.
“It’s only logical that we combined forces. We have a hospital here that will be collaborating with Potsdam,” he said.
If Massena Memorial Hospital was to close its doors, Dr. Bakirtzian said Massena residents would still be stuck with the hospital’s debt, including money that was owed to vendors.
“It is a dire situation here,” he said.
“The only money which was offered to us is from St. Lawrence Health System. We need to move forward,” Dr. Jayant Jhaveri said.
By becoming part of St. Lawrence Health System, he said patients would be at an advantage with more physicians locally, rather than traveling three hours to Syracuse or Burlington. Like Dr. Bakirtzian, he said Massena Memorial Hospital physicians had a good relationship with Canton-Potsdam physicians “before Massena was in trouble.”
Dr. Jhaveri said it was the responsibility of hospital and town officials to let residents know the outcome if they turned down a proposition to sell the real estate to St. Lawrence Health System.
“It’s our responsibility to give the education to Massena and the surrounding area what will happen if we don’t do this. Otherwise, we’re going to completely close down. I don’t think there’s any other option here — either close down and pay the taxes and join and don’t pay the taxes. I think it’s a very important issue,” he said.
“I think if this is the best option, let’s take it,” Dr. Nimesh Desai said, stressing the importance of the hospital to the community and praising the work of the staff there. “I want to make sure we do everything possible to keep this institution afloat.”
Dr. Dalkeith Facey said he believed they were on the right track.
“One of my concerns is the interpretation by the general public of what all of this means. I think it’s our responsibility to make sure it’s being presented in the simplest fashion where they can understand what’s going on,” he said.
“I feel confident that the taxpayers of the town of Massena will know which way to go. I think they’ll come up with the same conclusion that we in this room have come around. I don’t think it’s going to be much of a stretch. Get the word out. They’ll catch on and vote in the proper manner and we’ll have a hospital for years to come,” Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said.
The gist of it
n WHAT: Speaking during a special Massena Town Council meeting, Massena physicians shared their support about affiliating with St. Lawrence Health System
n WHY: They said there was already a relationship between doctors in Massena and Potsdam, and the affiliation would also mean a $20 million grant from the state and $8 million from St. Lawrence Health System
n THE CONCERN: They said the Massena community needs to understand why they affiliated with St. Lawrence Health System before they vote on the sale of hospital real estate on Nov. 5