MASSENA — Massena Memorial Hospital’s Norfolk Family Health Center has been closed since 2017 — but not officially.
Chief Executive Officer David J. Bender said no closure plan had ever been submitted to the state Department of Health.
“This came up as we were looking through the Brasher closure plan. We discovered... there actually was no closure plan submitted for the Norfolk clinic, which was actually closed a couple of years ago,” he said.
He said everyone that was impacted by the clinic was notified about its closure in 2017.
“All the appropriate notifications went out to the public and the affected parties, but somehow we didn’t get the notification to the Department of Health. They very much want that formal notification,” Mr. Bender said.
He said they sent a letter to the Department of Health, and the hospital’s Board of Managers has approved the submission of a closure plan for the clinic.
The Board of Managers agreed earlier this month to close the hospital’s Brasher Family Health Clinic. No positions will be lost with the closure of the Brasher Clinic.
Board of Managers Chair Loretta Perez said hospital officials were still waiting for Department of Health approval to officially close the Brasher Clinic. Patients will be notified about the options available at other clinics.
“We haven’t heard. We have to wait,” she said.
They are also waiting for approval to reduce the number of certified beds from 50 to 25 as part of the board’s request to convert to a Critical Access Hospital. That designation would mean a net revenue gain of $2.6 million per year.
The request has been approved by the state, and is now pending at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“We’re hoping for that in the near future,” Mr. Bender said.
The Board of Managers had unanimously agreed on April 8 to move forward with filing a certificate of need to become a Critical Access Hospital.
Critical access is a designation given to eligible rural hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It was created in response to a string of rural hospital closures during the 1980s and early 1990s. The designation is designed to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to health care by keeping essential services in rural communities.
Eligible hospitals must have 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds; be more than 35 miles from another hospital, although exceptions may apply; maintain an annual average length of stay of 96 hours or less for acute care patients; and provide 24/7 emergency care.
The hospital has also filed a Certificate of Need application for swing bed services, which Mr. Bender said would allow them to treat patients who no longer require acute care.
“They no longer meet acute care criteria, but they do qualify for post-care skilled nursing facility status. They’re called swing beds because the bed can swing from acute care status to post-acute care status from one day to the next,” he said.
There would be no capital cost involved with that move, he said, and there will be “some very modest additional employees that we’ll need.”