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MMH Board of Managers Timeline Perspective

January 09, 2019

Members of the Massena Memorial Hospital Board of Managers would like to share with the communities it serves information about some recent tactics that have been used by the Town of Massena Supervisor to disrupt the hospital board.

Members of the Massena Memorial Hospital Board of Managers would like to share with the communities it serves information about some recent tactics that have been used by the Town of Massena Supervisor to disrupt the hospital board.
We understand transition planning can be difficult and emotionally demanding. We also understand the Town Supervisor disagrees with the Board of Manager's recommendation regarding future affiliation. Unfortunately, some threatening or possibly incorrect statements have been made in both public and private arenas in an apparent attempt to influence or outright seize an important future decision related to affiliation.
After three and a half years of in depth and complicated work, MMH is poised to move forward with its new future.  Despite claims by the Supervisor that no work has been accomplished to move the hospital forward into becoming a voluntary, not-for-profit community hospital, we will demonstrate to the contrary. A detailed work plan has been outlined on all the work that is in process, by category, reflecting who is performing what work, and what the status is, has been shared with the Town Board continuously.  After this information was shared with the members of the Town Board, no feedback or questions have been received.
At a meeting with the Town Board in early December, Chuck Gijanto, Chief Executive Officer, outlined the budget status for 2019 along with the key components of a new strategic business plan to move the organization forward.  Again, no feedback has been received nor any questions asked.
Today it has been reported the Town Supervisor and members of the Council are stating the hospital is $23 million in debt. This is not true. The current hospital financials: Total assets $36.7 million, current liabilities $14.7 million and long term liabilities $11 million, leaving a net worth of $11 million. The hospital has $3.2 million or 20 days cash on hand and collects $3.8 to 4.5 million monthly from patient/insurance reimbursements. The hospital is in no danger of running out of money or closing as which is what is being charged.  It is important for the community to know the the hospital’s strategic l plan involves grant funding from the New York State Department of Health, a completed Transfer Asset Agreement, ATA, and a formal affiliation. The hospital has been working diligently on all three pieces are awaiting the town’s signature on the ATA. 
Over the last month, the Town Supervisor has reached out individually to the ? majority of hospital Board of Manager members and indicated that if they did not support his intentions with regard to affiliation he would remove them from the hospital’s Board of Managers.  Both the municipal law and the hospital bylaws clearly outline a process by which this can happen and the subsequent due process which has not happened.  Further, threatening board members with their roles is an abuse of power and a complete lack of respect for the sheer amount of work that has been done during the past few years while this process has been underway. In fact on January 4th the Town Supervisor notified the MMH Board Chair, Susan Bellor, in person that he was relieving her of her position on the MMH Board of Managers.
A letter from Mr. O’Shaughnessy, Town of Massena Supervisor to the Chair of the Board of Managers dated July 23rd 2018 clearly states that “it is the Town Board’s intention to allow the MMH Board to manage the operations of MMH as required by the General Municipal Law of New York State”. “As required by the Municipal Law” are the key words.  It does not say that the independent body of the Board must do what he wants. 
The hospital board requested and was given this letter as a guarantee by the Town in order to move forward in their fiduciary responsibilities as members of the board after the CEO departed.  This move cost the hospital an additional $500,000 in compensation for interim CEO’s.
While the Board of Managers respects the powers of the Town Supervisor within the confines of the law, this is clearly a violation of that law and an abuse of power. Without having done the due diligence the board has in choosing an affiliating partner to think that anyone can understand the complexities of healthcare and the depth of information reviewed and dialogue had, would be making an uninformed decision and one that could put the hospital in peril in the long run.  The hospital has contacted several state and federal agencies on these recent events and asked them to provide guidance as appropriate.
The focus of this board has been and continues to be to ensure there is a full service community hospital in Massena, with a reasonable level of local input and influence, and the maintenance of good paying jobs for this region.  Today, the hospital employs 427 people and offers an $85 million economic impact to our local community.
Early December, the Town Supervisor noted he hoped the hospital Board of Managers would have a recommendation by the end of the year.  On December 17, 2018, the MMH Board announced their choice for moving forward with an affiliation plan. Since that day, members of the BOM have been on the attack from the Supervisor’s office.
Additionally, it has been brought to the hospital board’s attention, that the Town Supervisor and Council have been in private discussions with representatives of St. Lawrence Health Systems. These discussions have not been shared with the hospital’s board members at large to date. 
 “In order to move forward, the Town Council needs to sign the ATA and move forward with affiliation discussion. These steps are imperative to continue the process of ensuring that Massena Memorial Hospital is a healthy North Country institution for years to come,” said Chuck Gijanto, Massena Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer. “We’re proud of the high-quality care our employees provide to the residents of the greater Massena area, and look forward to continuing that service long after our future affiliation is finalized. Our goal is to keep services and jobs local at Massena Memorial Hospital and build our service offerings in the Massena area.” 
In 2016, Massena Memorial Hospital was granted a Certificate of Need for the establishment of a new non-profit corporation-the same structure as the majority of hospitals in state by the New York State Public Health and Health Planning Committee. Establishing non-profit status was the first step in MMH’s plans to improve financial sustainability permanence. As a non-profit hospital, MMH can work with an affiliation that will help preserve and create good paying jobs and continue to provide quality healthcare for the community for years to come.  The Certificate of Need was required for the establishment of a non-profit corporation and the transfer of the hospital operating license from the Town of Massena.