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September 23, 2019

This Represents Another Step Forward Toward Ensuring Long Term Quality Health Care for the Community

Massena Memorial Hospital CEO David Bender pleased to announce the hospital has received notification from the New York State Department of Health (DOH) for approval of MMH’s request, made August 20, to close its four-bed Critical Care Unit (CCU). On August 19, the MMH Board voted to approve a closure plan for the CCU, pending DOH approval.

“Massena Memorial today takes a step forward in trying to improve its financial picture and ensure the continuation of quality, accessible health care for the people of Massena and the surrounding communities,” Bender said.

“Fewer than five patients per month met the criteria for admission to the CCU. It was difficult to recruit and retain critical care staff. And the cost was prohibitive,” Bender said. “As a result of the closure, MMH will be able to save approximately $1 million annually.”

Massena Memorial Hospital Board Chair Loretta Perez said: “The Board thoroughly reviewed this proposal – its impact on the health of our community and the financial health of our hospital – before we voted to approve the closure of the CCU last month. It was the right decision then and we’re glad that DOH, after their review, agreed with us and approved us moving forward with the closure.”

As Perez said in August: “Our action mirrors actions taken by many rural hospitals across the country to close their CCU units because of low utilization. Closing the CCU is an essential step in achieving the goal of putting Massena Memorial on a path to financial sustainability.”
The Emergency Room will remain open and fully operational and other critical patient care services such as cardiac monitoring (telemetry) will remain available to MMH patients. Strict protocols have been put in place to ensure that the few patients who might otherwise require CCU-level care will have access to such care in the appropriate facility.

Before moving forward, the Board also carefully reviewed the impact of the CCU closure on staffing, both in the CCU and across the hospital generally. As a result of the CCU closure and other changes to improve efficiency and reduce unnecessary costs, 13 currently staffed positions will be eliminated
(11 full-time and two part-time). Other positions within MMH are available for 9 of those affected staff members. For the other four staffers (three full-time, one part-time), positions are available at other SLHS facilities.

State DOH also approved MMH reducing the number of certified beds to 25, consistent with Massena Memorial’s request to convert to a Critical Access Hospital (CAH). Becoming a CAH will mean a net revenue gain of $2.6 million per year. An application for CAH status has been approved by New York State and is now pending at the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In July, New York State awarded Massena Memorial a $20 million grant from its Health Care Facility Transformation Fund to help bolster MMH’s precarious finances and advance ongoing efforts to ensure the people of Massena and the surrounding area can receive high quality health care services for years to come.

The Transformation Grant was made contingent upon St. Lawrence Health System creating an entirely new non-profit entity that will acquire Massena Memorial’s assets and then operate the hospital in Massena as part of St. Lawrence Health System, in the same way that Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Gouverneur Hospital are run.