Massena still facing hospital workers’ comp costs

The town of Massena may no longer own Massena Hospital, but that hasn’t dissolved nearly $1 million that must be paid for workers’ compensation. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — The town of Massena may no longer own Massena Hospital, but that hasn’t dissolved nearly $1 million that must be paid for workers’ compensation.

During last week’s Massena Town Council meeting, council member Susan Bellor questioned a $199,000 expenditure in the budget transfers for workers’ compensation.

“What is that related to?” she asked.

“That’s for the workers’ comp bill that we have through the county. Because we’re charged for last year, we have to pay for the hospital,” Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said.

“So this is not a one-time thing, this $199,000? It’s nobody in this building that needed the compensation?” Mrs. Bellor asked.

Mr. O’Shaughnessy said it was not.

Although the town no longer owns the hospital — it was acquired by St. Lawrence Health System on New Year’s Day — St. Lawrence Health System is not involved in the negotiations with the county over the workers’ compensation bill.

Town attorney Eric Gustafson said they are working with county officials to resolve the issue. He said they were waiting for information from the county so they could draw up a proposal to address the situation.

“I’d like to have it resolved and a plan in place hopefully by the end of August,” he said.

Town council member Robert Elsner, in a social media posting, said the workers’ compensation bill had nothing to do with the hospital’s transfer to St. Lawrence Health System.

“This ‘bill’ comes courtesy of your St. Lawrence County Legislators and their manipulation of the ‘formulas’ to determine workman’s compensation. This has nothing to do with the processes involving the transfer of the hospital. This would still be an issue regardless of what had happened to the hospital... even if it had shut down/closed,” he said.

Mr. Elsner reiterated that they were trying to resolve the issue with the county.

He cited a July 2017 news article regarding changes in the workers’ compensation formula. According to the article, starting in January 2018, five communities would see their workers’ compensation bill from the county increase while all other municipalities cover edunder the plan would pay about the same or less.

The town of Massena faced the largest hike, seeing its workers’ compensation costs increase from $258,000 in 2017 to $962,000 in 2018.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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