Massena hospital sale to St. Lawrence Health becomes official

MASSENA — Hours before the change became official, Massena Town Attorney Eric Gustafson recounted the journey from Massena Memorial Hospital being owned by the town to its sale to St. Lawrence Health System effective at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31.

“We really don’t have any action to take tonight, but we do want to get everyone together before the end of the year to let you know the hospital transfer is closing this evening,” Mr. Gustafson told Town Council members during a special meeting on Tuesday.

He said the transfer to St. Lawrence Health System was “pursuant to the terms of the asset purchase agreement that was voted on by this board and approved by the voters of the town of Massena.”

Town of Massena voters had approved the sale of the hospital, 2,090 to 190, during the Nov. 5 election.

The transfer ended a process that began in May when the hospital’s Board of Managers and the Massena Town Council agreed “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.”

Over the following months, the state Department of Health allowed St. Lawrence Health System to take over the day-to-day management of Massena Memorial Hospital under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer David Bender.

The hospital’s Board of Managers and Massena Town Council also voted to accept a $20 million grant from the New York state Health Care Facility Transformation Program, which was disbursed after the transfer became official. In addition, St. Lawrence Health System agreed to provide $8 million toward the hospital’s operation.

Town Supervisor Stephen D. O’Shaughnessy said St. Lawrence Health System had already been on site to replace boilers and update software.

“Right now, as we speak, they’re working on transitioning the employees over to the new corporation,” he said.

Mr. Gustafson called it an “incredibly complicated process that’s finally going to come to a conclusion.”

However, he said, there were still some outstanding issues that had to be addressed as he spoke to the board. Among them was how much cash was needed immediately and the signing of some contracts, which he said took place later on Tuesday.

“If you think about it, the monetary value of the transaction — $20 million the state put in and $8 million St. Lawrence Health System promised in the transaction — you think about the complexity of doing something like that over a short time. It was just a monumental task,” Mr. Gustafson said.

He commended Jason Centolella, the town’s special counsel during the process.

“He’s just done an incredible amount of work on behalf of the people of the town of Massena,” he said.

“This has been a long time coming. There are some administrative matters that we need to wrap up, but the lion’s share of the work is done. There’s no going back now. It’s a great accomplishment for everybody that’s been involved,” Mr. Centolella said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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