Hospital brass, unions meet

Now that they’ve received state approval to close their Critical Care Unit, Massena Memorial Hospital officials are working with their unions to address positions that will be eliminated with the closure. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Now that they’ve received state approval to close their Critical Care Unit, Massena Memorial Hospital officials are working with their unions to address positions that will be eliminated with the closure.

With the closure, 13 staff positions — 11 full-time and two part-time — will be eliminated, along with additional changes designed to improve efficiency and reduce unnecessary costs. Other positions are available at Massena Memorial for nine of the affected staff members. Positions are available at other St. Lawrence Health System facilities for the remaining four positions — three full-time and one part-time.

Chief Executive Officer David J. Bender said hospital officials are talking with the Civil Service Employees Association and New York State Nurses Association, as well as individuals who are impacted by the move.

“We’ll be working very closely with the unions and affected individuals... to make this transition as good as we can make it,” Mr. Bender said.

The transition process should be complete in the next few days, he said.

During its July meeting, the Board of Managers had approved filing a request with the Department of Health to de-license the four-bed Critical Care Unit.

“The reason was obviously to reduce the cost, but most importantly, patient need. We wanted to staff to the level of care of the patients that we’re getting,” he said.

Mr. Bender had previously noted that fewer than five patients met the criteria for admission to the Critical Care Unit each month, it was difficult to recruit and retain critical care staff, and the cost was prohibitive. The hospital will save about $1 million a year with the closure.

The hospital was notified on Sept. 20 that its request to close the Critical Care Unit had been approved and “now we’re starting to move forward” with the process, he said.

The Emergency Room remains open and fully operational, and other critical patient care services such as cardiac monitoring remain available to Massena Memorial Hospital patients. Strict protocols have also been put in place to ensure that the few patients who might otherwise require Critical Care Unit-level care will have access to that care in the appropriate facility.

The Emergency Department recently completed a transition to oversight from St. Lawrence Health System. The last day for Team Health, the former provider, was Aug. 31, and the contract with St. Lawrence Health System took effect Sept. 1. Dr. Jason Lorenc, chair of emergency medicine at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, is overseeing the Massena Memorial Hospital Emergency Department.

“We accomplished in about six weeks what normally takes two or three times as much to accomplish,” Mr. Bender said.

He said slots in the Emergency Room have been largely filled by physicians from Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Gouverneur Hospital.

“So far volumes are slightly better per day. We’re looking forward to great things from that transition,” he said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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