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Town board directs hospital to develop alternative to privatization

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MASSENA — Town officials have told Massena Memorial Hospital administrators that the Town Council will not decide whether to privatize the struggling hospital until another option for keeping it open is presented.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he and Councilman John F. Macaulay were joined at a meeting Wednesday by the hospital board’s finance committee, CEO Charles F. Fahd II and representatives from the Civil Service Employees Association and New York State Nurses Association, the unions representing hospital employees.

“We gave them a time frame and a directive that they collectively need to find a different plan that will save the hospital $8 million over the next three years,” Mr. Gray said. “That is the amount of money that will be needed to keep the hospital solvent and municipal.”

Mr. Gray declined to say how much time the hospital was given to put a plan B together. “Everybody agreed there was adequate time to develop a plan,” he said.

Mr. Gray said the parties will meet again before the deadline to provide town officials with an update. He said a date for the follow-up meeting has not been set.

Mr. Gray said that while he and the town board seek an alternative plan, it’s important to realize that privatization is not off the table.

“We don’t know whether, when we have plan B, that will be the direction we should go,” he said. He added that the Town Council simply wants a choice of options.

“The council was frustrated that we really only had two options, stay the course and go bankrupt or privatize,” Mr. Gray said. “Stay the course and go bankrupt isn’t really an option.”

Mr. Gray also said that he and other town board members were frustrated by the unions’ claims that they had offered the hospital ways to save money but that those proposals fell on deaf ears.

Mr. Gray said it is likely the alternative proposal will include wage freezes and a change in health insurance benefits.

“People will need to determine if those sacrifices in the alternative plan are worth it to retain their state retirement,” he said.

Hospital officials responded to the request by saying the hospital board had already voted to move forward with privatization, Mr. Gray said. “They reminded us that the board had made a decision to pursue privatization, and I reiterated to them that the town board wanted a plan B to consider,” he said.

In order for privatization to occur, the town board must authorize the transition.

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