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DANC OKs $2.5 loan for multiyear hospital consortium project

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To help fund a regional collaboration involving seven area hospitals, the Development Authority of the North Country approved a $2.5 million loan to the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization on Thursday to provide cash flow for the $6 million multiyear project.

Funding sources for the consortium of hospitals include $3.8 million in grant funding from the state Healthcare Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers program, or HEAL, about $1.5 million in savings from Medicaid rate adjustments and $800,000 from participating hospitals.

DANC CEO James W. Wright said the loan of up to $2.5 million, to be drawn from the authority’s Community Development Loan Fund, will assist the hospitals with interim financing needs to ensure they have cash flow during the first year of the project.

“We’re providing the funds they need and encouraging regional collaboration,” he said.

A regional telecommunications plan will be established by the consortium, Mr. Wright said, allowing the hospitals to collaborate by remotely sharing ideas and information. He said the authority’s $2.5 million in assistance will cover most of the technology costs incurred in the first year of the project.

“The idea is for hospitals to take (resources) and offer them for the benefit of the region through the network,” Mr. Wright said. “Otherwise, they will hire people from outside the region, and that’s not what we want to do.”

Denise K. Young, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, said the funding provided by the authority could play an instrumental role.

“It’s nice to know that if this is needed, the support from DANC is there,” she said.

In other business, DANC approved a plan to obtain a $2.2 million state grant to establish a public emergency telecommunications network in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties to connect 911 centers and emergency locations with broadband Internet access.

To include a 20 percent match from the authority up to $450,000, the grant was acquired by the authority from the pool of $25 million in funds made available this year by the Connect New York Broadband Grant Program. The telecommunications network also will link to emergency centers in Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties.

Mr. Wright said the telecommunications network will benefit the tri-county area by allowing emergency personnel to efficiently share information.

“The benefit is to the three counties, providing them with more capabilities to transfer data and visuals from scenes,” Mr. Wright said. “It also gives their communications systems redundancy” to prevent network failures, he said.

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