Massena Hospital & Town Take Step Toward Privatization

Source: WWNY, August 21, 2018

Massena Memorial Hospital and the town of Massena have made a step toward privatizing the institution. Right now, the town owns Massena Memorial, but officials from both entities want to transfer ownership to a private, nonprofit organization. Town Supervisor Steve O’Shaughnessy said in a statement Monday that there was an agreement in principle on a plan to transfer the hospital’s assets from the town to a private entity that would run the institution. …


Interim hospital chief executive officer says privatization her main focus
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, July 26, 2018

The interim chief executive officer at Massena Memorial Hospital says that, during the two months for which she is contracted, the focus will continue to be on a process that was first discussed in 2013 — privatization of the hospital. “My priorities right now are to continue to work with the town and hospital board to become a 501(c)(3) and complete the affiliation,” Ann Gilpin said during this week’s Massena Memorial Hospital Board of Managers meeting. Monday was Ms. Gilpin’s first Board of Managers meeting since she was named interim chief executive officer in June following the sudden resignation of former Chief Executive Officer Robert G. Wolleben. Her contract calls for her to serve as interim chief executive officer for up to two months, at a rate of $40,000 per month.

With CEO’s resignation, Massena council will push hospital to privatization, affiliation
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, June 19, 2018
With Monday night’s surprise resignation of Massena Memorial Hospital’s CEO, town officials will seek a contract with another hospital to run Massena Memorial Hospital and complete the privatization work already underway. Ann Gilpin was hired as interim chief executive officer following Monday’s immediate resignation by Robert G. Wolleben, but it will be a temporary position, Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said. … Last month, Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, introduced a bill that would move the hospital into a public benefit corporation rather than privatizing, which would shift financial responsibility away from the town while keeping the hospital from going private. But Mr. O’Shaughnessy said that was off the table. …

Jenne introduces bill to create public benefit corporation for Massena Hospital
Source: Abraham Kenmore, Watertown Daily Times, June 1, 2018
A bill introduced by Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, on Tuesday would move the publicly owned Massena Memorial Hospital into a public benefit corporation, shifting financial responsibility away from the town while keeping the hospital from going private. … The Massena Memorial Hospital has been looking to find a private hospital to affiliate with for several years now, as the hospital continually operates at a loss. At the end of 2017, the hospital reported it had a net annual loss of $5.6 million — an improvement over the prior year when it had lost $6.8 million. … The bill is supported by the state Civil Service Employees Association, whose Local 887 represents hospital employees.  “This is supported, we have supported in the past and continue to support,” said Mark Kotzin, spokesman for CSEA. “CSEA has always been opposed to privatizing the hospital.”  Mr. Kotzin said the union had been working with Ms. Jenne for some time. …

Massena Memorial Hospital sees big financial improvement, but still finishes January in the red
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, February 28, 2018
Massena Memorial Hospital finished January in the red but saw a significantly lower net loss than in previous months, where they were bleeding huge sums of money. The hospital lost $61,556 in January, which is down sharply from the $1.8 million loss they booked for December. … At the December meeting, Kerrie French, the president of MMH’s CSEA chapter, expressed concern over the hospital’s leasing a Da Vinci robotic surgery tool. She questioned the hospital for paying the lease at a time when she says staff are being cut. MMH CEO Robert Wolleben said the tool is being used elsewhere in the region and is bringing in patients who would have gone to other facilities. A statement given to the press at the close of the meeting says the tool “offers patients less blood loss, less pain, shorter hospital stay, and small incisions for minimal scarring.” …

Massena Memorial lost more than $5 million in 2017; CFO says operation deficit was less than 2016
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, January 22, 2018
After losing $1.8 million in December, Massena Memorial Hospital finished 2017 more than $5 million in the red, but financial documents show they generated more income than last year and ended with a smaller loss from operations.  “We did better than the previous year, it’s not exactly where we want to be but it’s better than the previous year by $1.2 million … generated $6 million more net revenue than the previous year because of new physicians, new services,” MMH CFO Pat Facteau said. … The head of MMH’s CSEA chapter questioned their use of the device at a time when she says positions are being cut.  “I know there’s been some cutbacks on staffing. With this DaVinci tool, I’ve heard it’s $18,000 a month for rental. Are we actually making $18,000 a month to at least break even? Without leasing that, it would save us a lot of jobs,” union president Kerri French asked.  Wolleben said her figure was wrong, and they are paying $15,200 a month on a lease. He says they acquired it to stay competitive in the region and they need to perform a few procedures per month to break even. …

Financial Woes Continue For Massena Hospital
Source: WWNYtv, November 20, 2017
Massena Memorial Hospital continues to rack up financial losses as it moves toward a potential privatization next year.  The hospital had an almost $880,000 loss from operations in October, compared to an almost $150,000 gain in October 2016. So far this year the hospital has a loss from operations of nearly $3 million.  Hospital executives attributed the losses to a number of factors. Two big ones were increased pension and health insurance costs. They are growing increasingly frustrated with higher pension costs. … The hospital’s merger talks with other hospitals are basically on hold until a transfer agreement can be worked out with the town, Wolleben said. …

Incumbent Massena Town Supervisor issues last-minute debate challenge to Democratic opponent
Source: Abraham Kenmore, Watertown Daily Times, November 4, 2017
Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray issued a challenge late Thursday to his opponent for a debate, four days before the election. In an interview with the Times on Thursday, Mr. Gray, the Republican incumbent, said he was challenging his Democratic opponent, Councilman Steven D. O’Shau­ghnessy, to a debate tonight in the Town Hall. He then issued a press release late Thursday night specifying that he had reserved Room 30 for 7 p.m. at the Town Hall to take community questions. … Mr. Gray has accused Mr. O’Shaughnessy of striking a deal to keep the hospital under town control in exchange for the endorsement of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 887, which represents over 200 workers at the Massena Memorial Hospital and opposes privatization. Mr. O’Shaughnessy has denied any such deal, and said Mr. Gray raised similar accusations that council members with state pensions would be under the control of Albany. …

Gray accuses O’Shaughnessy of opposing hospital privatization
Source:Abraham Kenmore, Watertown Daily Times, November 3, 2017
Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray issued a news release Monday questioning the endorsement of councilman Steven D. O’Shau­ghnessy, his Democratic opponent, by Civil Service Employees Association Local 887, which represents over 200 workers at the Massena Memorial Hospital. The CSEA has organized protests against the privatization of the hospital, which Mr. Gray says is necessary to keep the debt-ridden hospital open. …

Massena Memorial Hospital privatization process stalled until transfer agreement settled
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, September 28, 2017
The Massena Memorial Hospital privatization process is at a standstill until the hospital and town can come to terms on an asset transfer agreement, the MMH CEO told the Board of Managers on Monday.  “We are still talking to the town and we hope to have a town proposal that we can discuss in the very near future,” MMH CEO Robert Wolleben told the board, adding that the proposal needs to “model the financial impact” privatization would have on the hospital.  “Everything is teed up and hopefully we can move pretty quickly,” he said. Talks with two larger health networks they may affiliate with can’t move until that part is done. …

Massena town, hospital make non-disclosure deal, supervisor says brings asset transfer a step closer 
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, August 31, 2017

Following a closed-door session on Wednesday, the Massena Town Council ratified a non-disclosure agreement that the town supervisor brings them a bit closer to a Massena Memorial Hospital asset transfer deal.  “The board authorized me to sign a non-disclosure agreement that basically says we’re not going to disclose the information we’re negotiating … details of the transfer. The hospital’s attorney and our attorney worked back and forth over the last few weeks to finalize the terms of our agreement,” Town Supervisor Joe Gray said.  MMH is in the process of becoming a private, non-profit entity. The Town of Massena now owns them.  Part of the transition process is negotiating how the town will be compensated for losing the MMH asset. …

Massena Memorial Hospital CEO says they will ask workers comp carrier to help them reduce number of incidents leading to claims
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, July 25, 2017

Massena Memorial Hospital’s CEO says he will call on their workers compensation carrier to help them reduce workplace incidents leading to claims, after the county announced plans to move to a risk-based funding system for the insurance plan. “We are going to be asking for the workers compensation carrier to help us reduce our incidents. If we’re going to pay a premium we’re going to get service, not somebody who processes claims and says ‘you’re doing a bad job,’” MMH CEO Robert Wolleben said at the Monday Board of Managers meeting. County legislators recently voted to modify the Workers’ Compensation insurance contribution formula to a risk-and-use-based system, resulting in massive savings for many municipalities, but a 267 percent increase for the Town of Massena.

Massena Memorial CEO won’t give regular privatization updates to town board as transfer negotiations continue
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, July 20, 2017
The Massena Memorial Hospital CEO will no longer give regular updates on the hospital’s privatization process at monthly Town Council meetings.  The town board and the MMH board are negotiating an asset transfer deal to determine how the town will be compensated for its asset once MMH privatizes. … In addition to the asset transfer, the hospital is waiting for their 501c3 application from the IRS, and trying to pick an affiliate.  Wolleben earlier this year at a town board meeting said he hoped at the MMH meeting the following week, but it didn’t happen. That was in February. The only updates he has given in public is they are looking at two potential affiliates, one in eastern New York and one in the western part of the state.  Gray implied that MMH officials may have whittled that number down to one. …

Massena Memorial Hospital officials not disclosing affiliation plans 
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, April 29, 2017

Massena Memorial Hospital officials are still not close to publicly naming the health system with which they want to affiliate.  MMH is going through the process of privatizing, which includes picking a bigger system which they will join to some degree.  Although CEO Robert Wolleben late last year said he was hopeful they could name the potential affiliate by February, but on Monday MMH board finance committee chairman Scott Wilson said he can’t commit to them being able give the name by next month. …

Massena town lawmakers not ready to give details on MMH asset transfer process
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, March 15, 2017
Town councilors declined to comment when an official from Massena Memorial Hospital’s CSEA chapter asked for an update on the asset transfer process.  MMH is in the process of going from a town-owned hospital to a private, non-profit entity.  Part of that process involves a valuation of all hospital assets so the town can be compensated.  “Anything we’ve discussed is of a confidential nature. I don’t think we should discuss it,” Councilman Steve O’Shaughnessy replied after local CSEA Vice President Kerrie French asked for an update at the Wednesday town meeting. …

Massena Memorial Hospital narrows field of prospective affiliates; months to go before privatization approval
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, December 20, 2016

Now that the state has given a Certificate of Need, it will take Massena Memorial Hospital another six to eight months before getting IRS approval to privatize, their CEO said Monday. Meanwhile, they have narrowed down to two potential affiliates, he said. … They need to be designated a 501c3 entity and name an affiliate before they can privatize. Last week, MMH received the CoN from the state, allowing them to operate as a private entity. Earlier this year, MMH sent out requests for proposals to 17 larger healthcare systems. They received five that fit what they are looking for and have narrowed that down to two. … MMH started talking about privatization years ago in light of losing millions in operation each year and only remaining financially solvent through government bailouts, most of which covered their yearly state pension payment and left them breaking even. Since Wolleben took the helm, MMH started finishing each month in the black and have done so for nearly two years. …

Massena Memorial Hospital Foundation may need restructuring to privatize
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, November 24, 2016

The Massena Memorial Hospital Foundation may have to change its structure once MMH privatizes next year. The foundation is a 501c3 charitable organization that raises money for MMH, which they use to buy equipment and offset expenses. MMH is in the process of becoming a 501c3 themselves. The CEO says they are on track to do that by the summer. “There’s two ways it can go,” CEO Robert Wolleben said at Monday’s Board of Managers meeting. “It can be a separate 501c3 entity … the alternative is it can be a subsidiary of the hospital’s 501c3. It’s a common structure in hospitals all around the country.” …

Massena councilmen say backup plan needed for hospital in event of no privatization
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily News, August 18, 2016

Two Massena councilmen reiterated their belief this week that town and hospital officials needed a backup plan if Massena Memorial Hospital’s efforts to privatize don’t pan out. … Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, who was also at Wednesday’s meeting, had proposed earlier this year that hospital and town officials explore becoming a public benefit corporation, which would allow employees to retain their benefits and the hospital to affiliate, rather than convert from a municipal hospital to a nonprofit facility, a process that’s already underway. Hospital officials have said they’re unable to affiliate as a municipal facility. …

Massena lawmakers want double-edged bill that would back MMH municipal affiliation, protects workers if hospital privatizes
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, August 17, 2016

The Town Council made an informal agreement on Wednesday that they will support legislation in Albany that would back Massena Memorial Hospital’s right to affiliate as a municipal entity, if it is tied to bill that would support the employees in the event of privatization. … One of the points of contention throughout the years-long privatization debate is the state pension. MMH employees are currently in the system and could lose out on bumping up to the next milestone if the hospital goes private and would have the leave the program. Assemblywoman Addie Russell, D-Theresa, spoke to the board Wednesday and said state law will allow Massena Memorial to affiliate as a town-owned hospital. MMH officials are pursuing privatization. … Wolleben said they have not yet chosen an affiliate, although they have received requests from three, and the services they receive from other hospitals are contract deals, not affiliations. That includes new cardiologist Dr. Aderonke Adeniyi, who comes from University of Vermont Health Network but has her expenses paid by MMH, Wolleben said. …

Massena Memorial privatization makes strides; Certificate of Need ready, transfer agreement drafted, could soon be debt-free
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, June 20, 2016

Massena Memorial Hospital’s privatization process recently made significant strides, according to a report the CEO gave to the Board of Managers on Monday. He said the Certificate of Need is ready to be filed with the state, a draft transfer agreement has been passed to the town attorney and a state grant means the hospital will be debt-free in the coming months. In addition to that, MMH CEO Robert Wolleben said the hospital may name an affiliate by the fall. According to the CEO, the Department of Health has approved a $5.8 million grant to take care of most of their $6.2 million long-term debt. …

Assemblywoman Russell introduces bill to allow Massena Memorial to affiliate without privatizing, Town Council tables action
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, June 15, 2016

Assemblywoman Addie Russell, D-Theresa, has put forward a bill in the Assembly that would allow Massena Memorial Hospital to affiliate with other institutes without privatization. However, the Town Council on Wednesday night tabled supporting or refuting the proposal until they could hear the MMH board’s thoughts. … The hospital is in the process of submitting a certificate of need to severe ties with the town and privatize. Once that happens, they can merge or affiliate with larger hospitals. Wolleben has said in the past that municipal status precludes the ability to merge. Gray said he doesn’t think its likely the state government would be able to do anything this session, which has less than a week to go. It would have to clear both legislative houses, plus get the governor’s signature, but there’s no companion bill in the Senate. …

Massena Memorial Hospital about to take next step in privatization move
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, May 28, 2016

Massena Memorial Hospital is on track to file a certificate of need with the state by month’s end, a crucial step in converting from a municipal entity to a private non-profit. … They have hired the Denton Law Firm to assist with the process and are being assisted by managing partner Bill Owens, the former congressman. Wolleben said they are also shopping around for a bank to finance them once they go private. … The final transfer will not happen until the town is satisfied with the terms. Kerrie French, president of MMH’s CSEA chapter, was concerned that it could create difficulties if the DOH approves the conversion but the transfer agreement isn’t in place. …

Massena Memorial Hospital expects to soon file Certificate of Need as next step in privatization process
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, April 24, 2016

Massena Memorial Hospital’s top administrator anticipates filing a Certificate of Need with the New York State Department of Health in five or six weeks, a major step in becoming a private entity. … They are working with the Denton law firm to aid in the privatization process. The managing partner working with MMH is former Congressman William Owens. … Until 11 months ago, MMH was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. Wolleben took over and has made the hospital profitable, by slim margins. In March, they came out $51,130 in the black, compared to finishing March 2015 $346,407 in the red. On numerous occasions since taking his post at MMH, Wolleben has said municipal status precludes MMH from affiliations or mergers, which the state and federal government now require to get aid money.

Massena Memorial Hospital Board of Managers authorize officials to file for certificate of need from Department of Health
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, March 22, 2016

The Massena Memorial Hospital Board of Managers on Monday authorized MMH officials to file for a certificate of need from the state Department of Health. They need the document in order to severe ties with the Town of Massena and become a private entity. … Wolleben has said on numerous occasions that municipal status precludes them from merging or affiliating, which is necessary to continue receiving state and federal money. Wolleben spoke to the Town Council on Wednesday and told them there is “a lot going on behind the scenes” to shed municipal status at MMH.

Massena Memorial Hospital CEO says ‘a lot going on behind the scenes to privatize MMH’ including assessment and paperwork
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, March 17, 2016

Massena Memorial Hospital’s CEO says there is a lot going on behind the scenes to privatize MMH, but the process won’t go anywhere until they’ve filed paperwork with the state and had the business assessed. … He said the conversion expenses will be covered by a $5.8 million state grant MMH recently received. He said they haven’t spent the money yet because they applied for several grants for different purposes are awaiting DOH clarification that they can indeed use it to cover conversion costs. …

Editorial: A prudent decision: Privatizing Massena Memorial Hospital best course for future
Source: Watertown Daily Times, March 16, 2016

… Unless Massena Memorial Hospital undertakes this conversion, its future will remain uncertain. So when representatives of the Civil Service Employees Association insist that the question of transitioning the hospital into a nonprofit organization be placed on a referendum, Mr. Gray’s colleagues on the Massena Town Board should politely but firmly respond, “No.” Members of the CSEA submitted a petition signed by 290 individuals seeking a referendum to decide this issue. The main problem with this request is that there is no mechanism to hold such a referendum, town attorney Eric J. Gustafson said. A referendum could be held to sell or transfer property, but this doesn’t apply to converting a municipal hospital into a private facility. … In other words, not every issue should go to a referendum. If each contentious subject became fodder for a popular vote, there would be no need for a public body. The Town Board has specific authority and must be allowed to exercise it, even when the outcome faces opposition. Robert G. Wolleben, chief executive officer of Massena Memorial Hospital, said the health care facility would save $1.5 million a year by moving away from its state pension plan. The hospital would implement a 401(k) retirement plan for its employees if it transitioned to a private entity.

Massena town officials say no mechanism in place to hold referendum on hospital conversion
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, March 11, 2016

Town of Massena officials said they’ve received a petition signed by 290 individuals who want a public referendum on Massena Memorial Hospital’s future, but there’s no mechanism in place to hold what could be a costly special referendum. Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he has been told by town attorney Eric J. Gustafson that a referendum could be held in the case of the sale or transfer of property, which doesn’t apply as hospital officials move forward with plans to convert from a municipal to a nonprofit facility. … He said he has talked with officials from the county Board of Elections about the anticipated cost of a referendum. Mr. Gray said he was told it would cost at least $10,000 to hold a special referendum. … For now, hospital officials continue to move forward with their plan to become a private nonprofit. They received word last week that they would receive $5.8 million as part of the state-funded capital awards under the $1.2 billion Capital Restructuring Finance Program and $355 million Essential Health Care Provider Support Program.

Massena Memorial Hospital getting $5.8 million to help with modernization projects, privatization
Source: North County News, March 4, 2016

Massena Memorial Hospital is getting $5.8 million from the state Department of Health to help with their privatization process and modernization projects, according to MMH CEO Robert Wolleben. … Other “component requests” of MMH’s application for the $5.8 million grant were retirement of existing debt, corporate governance conversion, facility modernization, cardiology services consolidation, IT conversion and software modernization, Wolleben said.

On privatizing: Massena hospital chief says money, jobs and services will all be saved
Source: Eli Anderson, Watertown Daily Times, February 13, 2016

If Massena Memorial Hospital is successful in making the transition from a municipally-owned hospital to a private nonprofit one, it will save an estimated $2.5 million a year, CEO Robert G. Wolleben said. … The chief concerns of some hospital employees, union leaders and other members of the opposition are that privatizing will result in the loss of benefits, jobs and services. On Dec. 17, 2015, CSEA Local President Kerrie French told the Times that privatization of the hospital would mean employees would lose their state pension plans, a benefit she said they had sacrificed raises to keep. … By moving away from its current state pension plan, Mr. Wolleben said, the hospital would save about $1.5 million per year. However, without the pension, representatives of the state Nurses Association say they are concerned the hospital will see “a mass exodus of nurses.” …

Massena Memorial Hospital privatization now underway, but could take until the end of the year
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, January 31, 2016

Privatization of Massena Memorial Hospital, approved by the town board in December, is still in the early stages and could take until the end of year, according to CEO Robert Wolleben. … Wolleben said there are a number of areas where they need outside help. Those include filing a new certificate of need with the state Department of Health, which allows them to run the hospital as a new entity, as well as work on a transfer agreement with the town, a new corporate tax filing and setting up a new corporation. … The new corporation would take all of MMH’s debt away from the town and hire the current employees at their current pay rates. … He said there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered with regard to employee transfers from the current MMH to the future new entity. … The pension was a major flashpoint in the debate on whether or not to privatize MMH. Hospital employees get a state pension, which many employees over the last couple of years have said is a big factor in deciding to seek a job at MMH. Wolleben said MMH’s annual payment has risen to the point they can no longer afford it. He said it went from $190,000 in 2002 to over $3 million last year.

Massena councilman wants Russell to begin legislation to make hospital a public benefit corporation
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, January 22, 2016

A Massena town councilman who voted against allowing Massena Memorial Hospital to privatize in December wants Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell to begin looking at legislation to make the facility a public benefit corporation in case the hospital is not successful in its efforts to shed its municipal status. … Massena Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer Robert G. Wolleben said during a meeting in December, when councilmen voted to allow them to move forward with privatization, that transitioning to a public benefit corporation would not benefit the hospital. …

CSEA wants referendum on hospital; town says law does not require one
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, December 31, 2015

But, town officials say, they are under no obligation to hold a public referendum regarding the hospital’s plan to transition from a municipal to a nonprofit facility. Earlier this month, CSEA Central Region President Colleen Wheaton urged members of the Massena Town Council to put the hospital’s privatization up for a public referendum. She said residents had held a public referendum to establish the hospital, and they should have the same opportunity again. … In a Dec. 16 meeting, however, councilmen agreed to allow Massena Memorial Hospital officials to move forward with privatization. Voting for the resolution were Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray and Councilmen John F. Macaulay, Albert N. Nicola and Thomas C. Miller. Councilman Samuel D. Carbone Jr. cast the lone no vote. … But, Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said, despite the union’s efforts to gather signatures and request a public referendum on privatization, it’s not required under municipal law. A public referendum would be necessary if a buyer was found for the hospital and the building was going to be sold, but allowing hospital officials to pursue privatization was a decision delegated to the Town Council.

Massena Town Council turns down offer to explore public benefit corporation for hospital
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, December 18, 2015

For Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, allowing Massena Memorial Hospital to move from a municipally owned to a nonprofit facility wasn’t the right move. Her solution, one that would benefit the town, hospital and hospital employees, she said, was to turn the facility into a public benefit corporation. Ultimately, however, members of the Massena Town Council voted this week to allow hospital officials to move forward with becoming a nonprofit facility. Voting for the resolution were Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray and Councilmen John F. Macaulay, Albert N. Nicola and Thomas C. Miller. Councilman Samuel D. Carbone Jr. cast the lone no vote. … As a public benefit corporation, Massena Memorial Hospital would have the flexibility to affiliate with other organizations, Ms. Russell said. Hospital officials have said that one of the issues they’ve encountered is, as a municipal hospital, they cannot affiliate with other health care facilities — as state officials want all hospitals to do.

Union members demonstrate at Massena Town Hall to protest plan for hospital they say might jeopardize members’ jobs, pensions
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, December 17, 2015

For an hour before the vote to allow Massena Memorial Hospital to privatize, about 30 members of CSEA, New York State United Teachers and United Steelworkers Local 420-A stood in front of the Town Hall advocating for the decision to be left to a referendum. However, the demonstration didn’t thrill everybody. Linda Smith, an MMH registered nurse and member of the New York State Nurses Association union, said she protested because she thinks MMH will not serve the community as well as a non-profit. “If we go private, it’s just going to be another business. The town will have no say,” she said during the rally.

Massena Town Council allows hospital officials to move forward with privatization
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, December 17, 2015

Town Council members voted Wednesday to allow Massena Memorial Hospital to move forward with becoming a nonprofit facility, but it doesn’t commit them to actually shedding their municipal status. … The move came despite opposition by many in the packed town hall meeting room, following a rally of union members that began an hour earlier in front of the town hall. They carried signs with messages like “Let town residents vote. It’s our hospital,” and chants of “No more lies. Don’t privatize.”

Assemblywoman proposes Massena Memorial become public benefit corporation
Source: Jimmy Lawton, North Country Now, December 15, 2015

As Massena Memorial Hospital eyes becoming a non-profit, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell is proposing a quasi-government model that she says would protect employees and allow the hospital the freedom it needs to stay afloat. A spokesman for Russell said she is working on legislation that would allow Massena Memorial Hospital to become a public benefit corporation, rather than a typical non-profit. The plan is being modeled after the Erie County Medical Center, which went through a similar transition in 2003. This, according to the spokesman, would allow Massena Memorial Hospital “greater business flexibility while allowing workers to remain in their current bargaining units.”

Citing ‘legal obligation,’ union representing Massena Memorial Hospital employees urges lawmakers to put privatization to referendum
Source: North Country Now, December 14, 2015

Citing a “legal obligation,” the union representing a large number of Massena Memorial Hospital employees are demanding MMH privatization be left to the voters, not the Town Council. “Massena has a legal obligation to allow town residents to decide the future of their public hospital, and even more importantly, a moral one,” said CSEA Central Region President Colleen Wheaton. “After all, they were the ones who voted to create it, and they are the true owners of their hospital.” On Wednesday, the council will vote whether or not to privatize MMH, which is one of only two municipal hospitals in the state.

Public Should Vote on Taking Hospital Private, Massena Union Says
Source: WWNY, December 14, 2015

The union representing workers at Massena Memorial Hospital says the decision about whether to privatize the municipal hospital should be up to a public referendum of town taxpayers. That’s before the town board – which has final power – has its vote.   Civil Service Employees Association Central Region President Colleen Wheaton says “Massena has a legal obligation to allow town residents to decide the future of their public hospital, and even more importantly, a moral one.”   The local CSEA union has long opposed changing the hospital’s legal status from what it now – municipally-owned – to what hospital officials recommend, making it a private not-for-profit. The union argues it will lead to lower pay and benefits for workers and a loss of public accountability for hospital operations.

Massena Town Council expected to vote on hospital privatization this month
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, December 8, 2015

The Massena Town Council is expected to vote this month on whether to allow Massena Memorial Hospital to transition from a municipally owned to a nonprofit facility. Before a vote at the board’s Dec. 16 meeting, however, Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he needs to see a resolution from hospital officials seeking permission for the change. Because of the hospital’s municipal status, councilmen must authorize the move.

EDITORIAL: Nonprofit vs. no profit: Town Council should privatize Massena Memorial Hospital
Source: Watertown Daily Times, November 22, 2015

The hospital had for several years been operating in the red. But after taking over as chief executive officer in December, Robert G. Wolleben challenged hospital personnel and members of the board of managers to do what they could to close the gap between expenses and revenues. Their efforts have paid off. As of September, the hospital had a $54,000 net operating gain. Moving from a net loss to a net profit in less than a year is very impressive. But the minor gain that the hospital clings to is not nearly enough for it to remain a municipally owned facility. … Becoming a nonprofit entity would allow the hospital to solicit and receive money from a variety of sources that are now off limits to government-run enterprises. While amassing a $54,000 profit so far this year is wonderful, there is no way the hospital could survive on such a paltry amount. And the hospital needed several million dollars from the state last year and this year to make its pension payments, and it likely will require the same thing next year. But the state has said that this flow of revenue will be cut off after that. The only other option to converting into a nonprofit entity would be for the Town Council to provide between $20 million and $25 million over the next several years for the hospital to continue operating. This would have to be done through bonding, and it’s not likely that the Town Council would support this….

Massena Memorial Hospital officials, town councilmen share thoughts on privatization
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, November 18, 2015

Massena Memorial Hospital’s chief executive officer told town councilmen Wednesday that if they can’t receive permission to change the hospital’s status from municipally owned to a not-for-profit facility, he’s going to be asking them to bond for a significant sum of money to keep the facility open. … Mr. Wolleben, who took over as CEO in December, noted that he had appeared before the board last year — and the corporate structure of the hospital, the topic he addressed Wednesday night, was also a hot agenda item then. Members of the hospital’s Board of Managers under then-CEO Charles F. Fahd II had asked the Town Council last year to allow them to privatize. But that had been put on hold after Mr. Wolleben’s arrival so he could have time to study the situation and make changes. But now, a year later, Mr. Wolleben is making the same recommendation and asking councilmen to approve the move as soon as possible. …

Massena councilmen weigh in on hospital recommendation to privatize
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, November 11, 2015

“One concern that I have listening to the presentation and reading the article in the paper — and I read it more than once — Bob Wolleben said that the money that was bonded for the hospital could be absorbed by the affiliated hospital. The word ‘could’ means it might not definitely happen. The town of Massena could be saddled with the $5 million debt the hospital owns,” Mr. Carbone said. He said he also was concerned about the future of the 398 jobs at the hospital if privatization were to take place. Mr. Carbone suggested that if another hospital took over, there was no guarantee all of the jobs would be preserved. … The same could apply to other services, such as radiology or surgery, which he suggested could be shipped to the affiliated hospital’s larger facility. Mr. Carbone said he was surprised by the timing of the announcement, coming the same week as Alcoa’s announcement earlier in the week that it would be closing the Massena East smelter and idling the Massena West smelter, affecting 487 positions.

Massena Hospital’s plan to privatize does not sit well with employees
Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, November 7, 2015

He suggested nonprofit status would give the hospital access to the necessary capital required to purchase state-of-the-art equipment, upgrade facilities, update outdated rooms, machines and tools and increase research that will allow it to compete with neighboring hospitals. Ms. Wheaton said the decision by the hospital’s board of managers was in direct opposition to the recommendations of the 2015 study by Newpoint Healthcare Advisors that advised against selling or privatizing the hospital. She and CSEA spokesman Mark M. Kotzin said union members are willing to make concessions to keep the hospital a municipally owned facility. Ms. Wheaton said union members already have voted to voluntarily freeze their wages for three years to help the hospital get on more sound financial footing, and the union and management continue to discuss a potential switch in health insurance carriers that is projected to save up to $1 million a year if fully implemented.

Update: Union Blasts Massena Hospital Switch
Source: WWNY, November 6, 2015

The union representing the majority of workers at Massena Memorial Hospital blasted a plan Friday to make the hospital private, non-profit. Officials at the hospital said Friday morning they want to move the facility to nonprofit status so it can respond better to changes in the health care industry. … The union is afraid worker wages and benefits will be cut. The hospital’s board of managers now plans to seek approval of the town board for the change by year’s end. If the switch is approved by the town, it could be eight to 12 months before the nonprofit status goes into effect. The idea to privatize the hospital has been around for a few years and has met stiff opposition from union leaders in the past. In fact, unions suggested a three-year wage freeze rather than making Massena Memorial a private nonprofit institution. A study completed earlier this year recommended the hospital stay public for the near future.

MMH CEO: No job cuts, maybe new hires if Massena hospital goes private
Andy Gardner, North County Now, November 6, 2015

MMH announced in a Friday afternoon news release that they will renew their push to get the Town Council to vote in favor of relinquishing municipal control of the institution. When asked if such a vote would jeopardize jobs, MMH CEO Robert Wolleben replied “No, in fact we see if we convert to non-profit as an opportunity to actually grow jobs.” They have been pressured by the state Department of Health to pursue affiliations with other health care organizations and they can’t do that as a municipal entity, Wolleben said.

Massena town supervisor wants vote on Massena Memorial Hospital future
Source: Benny Fairchild, Johnson Newspapers, July 27, 2014

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said Thursday that if he has his way, a vote on how to proceed with Massena Memorial Hospital will happen “within the next couple of weeks.” ….. The committee established by Mr. Gray met Tuesday and had what he called “a very good discussion.” Mr. Gray said no dates have been set for additional committee meetings. “At the meeting on Tuesday, CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) and NYSNA (New York State Nurses Association) presented some ideas to generate revenue or savings for the hospital….” One area where everyone agrees money could be saved is the health insurance benefits provided to hospital employees. … Regardless of when a vote on the hospital’s future takes place, Mr. Gray said, it will still be several months before any change officially takes place. Should the board agree to privatize the hospital, Mr. Gray said, that process would take “several months, at least” and, even if the board rejects the hospital’s privatization plan, Mr. Gray said that doesn’t mean changes won’t be made….

Town Supervisor says board has enough info, wants to decide Massena Memorial Hospital’s future by the end of August
Source: Andy Gardner, North County Now, July 23, 2014

Town Supervisor Joseph Gray says he feels the Town Council is ready to decide Massena Memorial Hospital’s future and wants that to happen by the end of August…. He made the remark on the heels of a July 22 closed-door meeting with town council members and representatives from Massena Memorial Hospital administration and CSEA and the New York State Nurses’ Association. The meeting was the third time the groups had convened. The sessions were closed, Gray said previously, because no governing body will have a quorum. That means they are not legally obligated to announce their convention or admit citizen spectators. Gray said the public is restricted because he believes people will speak more freely without worry that their comments will be published. At the July 22 meeting, union representatives brought forth several cost-saving measures….

Decision Expected By End Of Summer On Massena Hospital’s Future
Source: Fox 28, July 22, 2014

A decision on whether Massena Memorial Hospital becomes a private not-for-profit medical facility or remains municipally-operated could come by the end of the summer. The hospital is bleeding financially and could be bankrupt in 18 months according to a financial report. Despite writing off over $600,000 in bad debt in early spring, the hospital lost nearly $126,000 in June and is running more than $2 million in the red. Union officials have suggested a three year wage freeze and health insurance changes to avoid privatization….

CSEA calls Massena Memorial Hospital report ‘nothing more than a public relations sales pitch’
Source: Bob Beckstead, Johnson Newspapers, July 19, 2014

Officials of the Civil Service Employees Association say a Massena Memorial Hospital report contending that the hospital must become a nonprofit entity to avoid bankruptcy and closure is merely a pitch to further that agenda. “We would argue that this is nothing more than a public relations sales pitch. They’re trying to spin it as the only viable option. We don’t believe that’s the case. We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep saying, there are other options that need to be explored fully,” union spokesman Mark M. Kotzin said Friday….

Massena town supervisor says ‘Plan C’ may be possible at Massena Memorial Hospital
Source: Benny Fairchild, Johnson Newspapers, July 5, 2014

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said when the group he formed to explore the future of Massena Memorial Hospital meets later this month a “Plan C” may actually be presented. Mr. Gray had challenged the hospital’s administration and unions to come up with a Plan B, which would provide an alternative to privatization, something that has raised the concerns of members of the CSEA and New York State Nurses Association unions. … Following the presentation of those reworked numbers, Mr. Gray said union officials said they had additional ideas on ways that the hospital could be saved. “In the meeting we called last week, the unions said they had some other ideas so we challenged them to come up with a Plan C,” Mr. Gray said.

Town board directs hospital to develop alternative to privatization
Source: Benny Fairchild, Johnson Newspapers, May 2, 2014

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.

Comptroller’s office disputes Massena Memorial assertion that pension costs rising
Source: Bob Beckstead, Johnson Newspapers, April 17, 2014

Pension costs are one of the driving factors in Massena Memorial Hospital’s plan to convert to a nonprofit facility, with hospital officials saying the costs are rising enough to bankrupt them by 2017 if they maintained the status quo. But those costs are actually scheduled to decrease in the next couple of years, according to the state comptroller’s office…..

Massena Memorial Hospital employees suggest becoming critical care facility
Source: Benny Fairchild, Johnson Newspapers, April 17, 2014

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.

MMH union: Massena Town Council should hold off privatization vote until public gets all the facts
Source: North Country Now, April 8, 2014

Workers at Massena Memorial Hospital are urging members of the Massena Town Council to hold off on making any decision on converting the municipal hospital to a private, not-for-profit facility. Mark Kotzin, spokesman for the CSEA workers at the hospital, says the employees want the town to wait until town residents have had time to review financial projections and examine possible alternatives, and if it comes to it, have their say in a public referendum.

Meeting Thursday to discuss Massena hospital privatization
Source: Bob Beckstead, Johnson Newspapers, April 9, 2014

A consultants’ report suggesting that Massena Memorial Hospital should privatize will be discussed during an informational meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday at Massena Town Hall. Hospital CEO Charles F. Fahd II will present the report during the meeting of the Town Council and the hospital Board of Managers, and there will be time for questions and answers. Other information sessions will be held during the next four weeks, according to Tina R. Corcoran, senior director of public relations and strategic planning for the hospital….

Massena Memorial Hospital moving ahead with privatization
Source: Bob Beckstead, Johnson Newspapers, March 27, 2014

The Massena Memorial Hospital board of managers is moving forward with plans to turn the publicly owned facility into a private, nonprofit hospital. Following an executive session this week, board members voted 9-0 to send their recommendation for privatization to the Town Council, which will have the ultimate say. …. Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he was notified Tuesday that the board of managers had voted to move forward with the privatization. Now it’s up to the Town Council to make a decision….

Massena Memorial Hospital finishes February nearly $400,000 further in the red than anticipated
Source: Andy Gardner, North County Now, March 26, 2014

Massena Memorial Hospital finished February nearly a half-million dollars in the red for the month alone, according to a financial and statistical summary they released Monday night. The document shows the institution suffered a $425,865 net loss. The number defied the hospital’s estimate – they figured on a $60,740 loss for the month of February. Year-to-date, MMH has reported losing $388,181 and budgeted to lose $188,261. The difference is due to an approximate $37,000 net gain for the month of January….Councilman Samuel Carbone said he won’t feel confident casting a vote until he learns more than what was shared with town officials in a February 24 executive session. He wants to see a list of all employees, who is in what state retirement tier and potential downfalls of privatization. In the February meeting, FreedMaxick gave the results of their look into the hospital’s future under three scenarios: status quo, becoming a private non-profit and becoming a public benefit corporation. A limited amount of their findings were made public. By remaining a town entity, MMH will be $3.2 million in the red by 2017, the study suggested. … If they privatize, they could have $7.4 million on-hand by that same year. The numbers were based on projections based on 2010 – 2013. According to Macaulay’s calculations, the town would have to grossly inflate the tax rate to make up the $3.2 million deficit…..

Massena Memorial Hospital board says no legal roadblocks to privatization
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, December 17, 2013

The Massena Memorial Hospital Board of Managers announced on Monday night that Hancock Eastabrook has told them there’s nothing legally stopping them from transitioning to a private non-profit. But, the information means nothing without the results of a financial feasibility study. … Spanburgh added that even thought Hancock Eastabrook has conveyed that information, their task isn’t finished. He said they have further study to do and will return to give legal advice in regard to whatever findings FreedMaxick Healthcare comes back with. They were hired last month to look at the financial side of the process. MMH CEO Charles Fahd told the board that FreedMaxick gave a six to eight week time period to do their job once all the hospital’s financial records have been turned over – MMH CFO James Smith said they have all the materials they require. That means they may come back with answers as early as next month. …

Concerned citizens again pack town hall to voice displeasure over MMH privatization
Source: Benny Fairchild, Watertown Daily Times, August 22, 2013

Concerned citizens and employees of Massena Memorial Hospital again filled the town hall’s meeting room on Wednesday to voice their displeasure over the potential privatization of Massena Memorial Hospital….Mr. Egan told town board members that the privatization of the hospital, which would cost employees their state pensions and likely alter their insurance benefits wouldn’t only hurt hospital employees. “Keeping it public is not only beneficial to the hospital and its employees, but to the community,” he said. “You have a decision to make here. Do you want the employees of the third largest employer in town to lose their pension?”…

…Mr. Fahd and his salary, which is now $280,000 and will rise to $295,000 next year, were the subject of much debate at the meeting, with many people wondering how he could have such a large salary during what the hospital is calling “tough financial times.”…

Speakers suggest MMH not telling entire story about finances
Source: Bob Beckstead, Daily Courier TUESDAY, AUGUST 6, 2013

Speakers at a Monday meeting of the MMH Community Coalition suggested that Massena Memorial Hospital officials aren’t telling the entire story when they explain their reasons for wanting to turn the facility from a town-owned entity to a private, not-for-profit hospital.

…. But Gary Storrs, a Washington, D.C.-based labor economist with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the Affordable Care Act might actually benefit health care facilites, including Massena Memorial Hospital.

Group opposed to privatizing Massena Memorial Hospital to meet Aug. 5
Source: North Country Now, July 25, 2013

…. The meeting follows a recent decision by Massena Memorial Hospital’s Board of Managers to hire Hancock Estabrook, LLP to investigate transitioning the facility from a municipal entity to a private non-profit….

The group a petition opposing the change at

The group also operates a Facebook page.

Massena Memorial invites in two firms to continue exploring privatization
Source: Bob Beckstead, Johnson Newspapers, June 18, 2013

…Board of managers Chairman Andrew T. Spanburgh told fellow board members Monday night that they have invited in two firms to meet with the executive board July 8. Each firm will have an hour to present information on what the hospital would have to do to move ahead with privatization. CEO Charles F. Fahd II said several firms had expressed interest in assisting the hospital….A consultant would determine the hospital’s options in providing retirement benefits for its employees rather than the state pension plan should the hospital privatize….

Feedback: Privatizing Massena Memorial Hospital?
Source: WWNY, June 7, 2013

Should Massena Memorial Hospital go from being owned by the town to becoming a a private not-for-profit facility?…The hospital is owned by the town of Massena and is facing the loss of millions of dollars in reimbursements and federal revenue cuts over the next decade. Hospital officials are looking at privatizing as an option to save money on state pension costs it is required to pay into the system for employees….Going private would mean workers would be given a different retirement plan like a 401(k)….