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Massena Memorial Hospital employees suggest becoming critical care facility

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MASSENA — Suggesting that the town board take on another study before making a decision on the future of Massena Memorial Hospital, a group of employees suggested Wednesday night that the hospital become a critical care facility with a 25-bed capacity, rather than continuing to maintain its current 50-bed capacity.

Denise Campbell, an employee of Lewis County General Hospital, Lowville, who has been helping the Massena hospital’s Civil Service Employees Association unit throughout the past several months, suggested having an outside group not connected to the hospital or CSEA take a look at the hospital’s finances for ways it could save money.

“The hospital keeps contradicting what we say and we keep contradicting what they say,” she said. “Hopefully, with an outside group we could get some true numbers.”

That statement didn’t sit well with Councilman John F. Macaulay, who interpreted the comment as an accusation of fraud.

“I don’t have a problem with doing a trove of studies,” he said. “I have a problem when people are accusing people of fraud.”

Ms. Campbell said she meant that a third party might find something different.

Ms. Campbell also noted that when Lewis County General Hospital went through difficult financial times, it avoided laying people off.

“Lewis County didn’t have to cut staff because they’re not staffing for 50 beds,” she said, suggesting that by becoming a 25-bed facility, Massena might be able to save significant money.

“They’re not using the beds now,” she said. “A consultant could come in and look at whether they are truly hospital beds or observation beds.”

That suggestion drew interest from Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray.

“So you have no problem changing the status to critical care?” he asked.

He said one important piece of information missing from Ms. Campbell’s presentation was the fact that Lewis County was supplementing the hospital with federal aid that Massena, as a township, wouldn’t be eligible for.

“The cash burning is accelerating,” he said, noting that according to the hospital’s latest financial reports it is down to $3.8 million in total cash reserves.

“I’m not against doing studies, because they give us good information, but we need to do something to get us by,” he said.

CSEA representative Wayne Lincoln said that while Mr. Macaulay and members of the town board seem concerned with the hospital’s financial status, the hospital’s administrators and board themselves don’t seem to be.

“It’s been more than a year since this proposal and not one thing has been done at the hospital. They’re still spending money like crazy,” Mr. Lincoln said.

Mr. Macaulay responded by saying he was surprised the hospital had not yet laid off anyone. He noted 65 percent of the hospital’s budget is connected to salaries and benefits.

“When you say they’re spending money hand over fist, only 20 percent of their budget is discretionary,” he said.

No decision was made Wednesday about whether to conduct another study.

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