MASSENA — Massena Memorial Hospital officials will meet with state officials on Thursday to review the hospital’s proposal to create a new corporation that would be called Massena Hospital, as part of its conversion from a municipal hospital to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit facility.
Chief Executive Officer David Bender said Thursday’s meeting will be with an Establishment Committee. Two weeks later, the committee will meet with the full state Public Health and Health Planning Council, who will take the recommendation of the Establishment Committee and make a final decision.
“If we have a positive recommendation, two weeks further we’re hoping to get the full certificate of approval for that,” Mr. Bender told the hospital’s Board of Managers on Monday. “We know there will be contingents attached to that, and we are pushing very hard to get this entire thing finished if at all possible the first of January. There’s no assurance of that, but that’s the target date that we would love to get it done.”
He said they were also working very closely with state officials to see if $20 million in grant funding can be released at that time. The funding is from New York state’s Health Care Facility Transformation Program and will be disbursed after Massena Memorial Hospital has become part of St. Lawrence Health System.
“An awful lot is happening very, very quickly. Very good efforts are being made on all sides — our side, the town and the Department of Health. It’s a challenge, but it’s been met with a lot of good effort,” Mr. Bender said.
During Monday’s meeting, board members approved Letter of Credit and Pledge and Assignment resolutions that memorialized the hospital’s pledge to use the grant funding to repay a second loan to the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
The hospital had received a $2.8 million loan from St. Lawrence Health System in August, but that funding “has been exhausted or imminently will be exhausted, according to a resolution passed by the Massena Town Council last week. They’ve agreed to borrow an additional $1.335 million that they said is “necessary for Massena Memorial Hospital’s short-term survival and long-term success as a provider of high quality and cost effective care for the communities that it serves.”
The resolution authorized a line of credit agreement with St. Lawrence Health System with the town as the guarantor, just as it was for $2.8 million received earlier this year.
The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York had loaned the original $2.8 million to St. Lawrence Health System, and that money is being used as a line of credit for Massena Memorial. The loan cannot be given to a municipality, so it was set up through Canton-Potsdam Hospital, with Massena as the guarantor.
Robert Elsner, who was recently elected to the Massena Town Council, wondered who would be responsible for the debt if the hospital couldn’t cover all of its debt with the grant funding.
“What happens if we don’t have enough to cover that debt? Who is responsible for that debt?” he asked.
“We’re going through a lot of those negotiations with the state right now. I can’t you a clear answer right now. They’re fair questions,” Mr. Bender said.
“It’s a good question. We don’t have the answer yet. That concern is valid,” board Chair Loretta Perez said.
Mr. Bender said they would have answers once the negotiations were complete.