MASSENA — The Massena Town Council and Massena Memorial Hospital will move forward with the sale of the hospital’s assets to St. Lawrence Health System following voter approval on Tuesday, 1,963 to 174.
Now, with voter approval, a partnership between Massena Memorial Hospital and St. Lawrence Health System that began in May moves on to the state level for final approval, which Massena Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer David Bender said could come as early as January.
“This is very positive and now we can move forward in building our future as Massena Hospital. Our goal is to transition by Jan. 1, 2020,” Mr. Bender said Tuesday night.
He said they were pleased with the final results of Tuesday’s vote.
“We’re pleased and gratified that the people of Massena have overwhelmingly approved the referendum. The strong support from the community allows us to move forward with the important and essential work of bringing Massena Memorial into the St. Lawrence system and preserving access to high-quality health care for the people of Massena for decades to come,” he said. “This would not be possible if it was not for the amazing support of all our employees.”
Robert Cunningham, husband of Massena Town Council member Melanie Cunningham, pointed out the large margin of victory during the Democratic gathering at the Massena Elks Lodge. The unofficial margin was 91.84 percent approval.
“That is the work of this town council. 91.84 percent agree with transferring the assets to St. Lawrence Health. We have health care right here in Massena again and it’s going to stay here. It’s going to get better and better and we are going to be the beacon of the north country when it comes to health care,” he said.
The hospital’s Board of Managers and the Massena Town Council had agreed in May “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.”
The management agreement between Massena Memorial Hospital and St. Lawrence Health System was approved by the state Department of Health in June, and allowed St. Lawrence Health System to take over day-to-day management of Massena Memorial Hospital under the leadership of Mr. Bender, who was appointed as chief executive officer following the state’s approval of the agreement.
On July 30, the hospital’s Board of Managers and Massena Town Council voted to accept a $20 million grant from the state Department of Health and authorize an asset transfer agreement between Massena Memorial Hospital and St. Lawrence Health.
The grant funding was contingent on the St. Lawrence Health System creating an entirely new nonprofit entity that would acquire Massena’s assets and operate the hospital as part of St. Lawrence Health System.
That led the hospital’s Board of Managers, Massena Town Council and St. Lawrence Health System to sign an agreement to convert Massena Memorial from a public to a private, nonprofit hospital that would be part of St. Lawrence Health System, along with Canton-Potsdam and Gouverneur hospitals. St. Lawrence Health System has also agreed to provide $8 million toward the hospital’s operation.
The Massena Town Council unanimously passed a resolution on Aug. 26 to sell surplus Massena Memorial Hospital property to St. Lawrence Health System and set up the mandatory referendum that was on Tuesday’s ballot.