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Town council assures MMH employees that decison on MMH privatization isn’t in immediate future

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MASSENA — Elected officials assured the more than two dozen employees and supporters of Massena Memorial Hospital at this week’s Town Council meeting that no decision on privatization will be made in the immediate future.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, who said he met with hospital CEO Charles F. Fahd II and hospital board President Andrew T. Spanburgh this week, said he has heard of no plan to privatize the publicly owned hospital within the next two months, despite what some believe.

Although there was a timetable mentioned, “there was no discussion about a two-month expedited process,” Mr. Gray said. “There are some details that I can’t share publicly.”

Councilman Albert N. Nicola, who also attended the meetings, said the only date mentioned was sometime in January, but he agreed with Mr. Gray that privatization will not happen any time soon.

“We let it be known we are not interested in a January date,” he said. “This is going to take longer than two months.”

While many residents believe hospital administrators already have made up their minds, Mr. Gray said that’s not the case.

“They’re telling us they haven’t made any decision yet,” he said. “They don’t have all the information they’re looking for.”

Mr. Gray also said the town has debated whether to commission its own independent study on hospital privatization.

“Does it make sense for us to hire our own attorneys and financial analysts to do our own studies?” he asked. “We need to figure that out.”

Mr. Gray said the hospital’s study is expected to look at three options; keeping municipally owned status, privatizating and becoming a public benefit corporation.

“I think that’s a road to nowhere,” Mr. Gray said, referring to becoming a public benefit corporation. “Clifton-Fine went to public benefit corporation and has since gone private.”

Town board members agreed better communication is needed among the administration, hospital board and hospital employees.

“When this started, we heard everything was going to be transparent and nothing would be hidden,” said Wayne Lincoln, a hospital employee and Civil Service Employees Association member. “To this day we have heard nothing.”

Mr. Gray said representatives of the hospital board and its administration have yet to attend one of his committee meetings, but he’s hoping to “get everybody in the same room” in the near future.

Hospital employees pointed to several ideas they have presented, all of which they say have been shot down or ignored.

“The unions have offered $100,000 in insurance savings. That has been ignored,” Mr. Lincoln said, adding he’s also suggested the hospital do something to streamline its registration process.

“They won’t change it,” he said. “If you’ve ever been through that process, it’s really frustrating.

Mr. Lincoln also noted that the hospital is not a Level IV trauma center, something that would allow it to bill emergency room patients at a higher rate and something that has been suggested by employees many times.

Mr. Gray said the hospital board agreed Monday to purchase the necessary software.

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