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Massena resident raps plan to privatize MMH

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To the Editor:

I have attended the last town board meeting and the last Massena Memorial Hospital board meeting and things just don’t add up to me.

I cannot understand why the town of Massena residents are so complacent on this issue of selling the hospital.

The town of Massena built the hospital and for many years the hospital has not been a burden to the taxpayers. No taxpayer money has been put towards the hospital.

Less then 10 years ago, the hospital had a surplus of $18 million. The town asked for $5 million, and the hospital denied the town the money. In 2009, I believe the hospital had a surplus of $15 million and none of that money was turned over to the town to help keep taxes lower.

The hospital is capable of being in the black, but the current board of the hospital and the current CEO, Mr. Fahd, are trying to make the hospital look like it is not making money and will be losing $10 million over the next 10 years.

The union leaders of the hospital have checked on retirement costs and this year it is high, but with more employees entering workforce at the hospital will be a Tier 6, which should save the hospital money.

The hospital has to pay $1.5 million this year towards retirement benefits and CEO Fahd says they do not have the money. If they were not going to be able to pay this $1.5 million, why did they build an office across the street from the hospital for $3.5 million?

The office is made to be occupied by eight doctors offices. Currently there are four doctors in the space and only one of them is paying rent. The other three are on the payroll of the hospital and are getting free rent and equipment use and are adding to the retirement payment burden.

If CEO Fahd thought there was going to be money trouble, why did the board allow the purchase Seaway Orthopedics building and equipment and add the employees to the hospital payroll?

Because they have a money shortage, the hospital is renting a new CT scanner and paying over $90,000 in interest when they have the money on hand. Board member Darrell Paquin asked why they would do this, but never got a clear answer.

My feelings are that if the hospital should become privatized the departments that are not making money will be shut down. That would include Dialysis, Cancer Treatment,. And a few others. Another thing that would be gone if the hospital privatized is the PROUD Program that allows uninsured patients to get their hospital bills lowered greatly. If it is privatized, will it be like Mountain Medical that does not take all insurances?

If it is privatized, who do you think is going to run it? My vote is that CEO Fahd will be keeping the position he has. And when they end up with million dollar surplus they will have to pay it out and be non – profit. Who do you think will get the money? The people running it will get a bigger bonus for the year, like all of the failed banks and automakers that got bailed out and then got a profit.

The hospital has not cost the taxpayer a cent. Why would you sell it? Why would you let it become privatized non profit? I think that the town board should be thinking about replacing the present hospital board. When there is a profit some of the millions should be turned over to the town. The hospital board answers to the town board. When there was an $18 million surplus the town should have gotten the $5 million they requested.

The hospital can make money, but not under the current board and CEO. They are painting a picture of failing finances so they can reap the benefits. If the town decides to sell it, what price do you put on it? Will they receive a payment in a lump sum to put in the bank?

What will happen with all the buildings that the current hospital board and CEO bought if the “new” owners don’t want dialysis or any of the clinics? They will go empty and go by the wayside like so many other buildings.

Why are their hospital board members that have contracts with the hospital that provide them an income? That is conflict of interest.

At the last hospital board meeting I attended there was a question directed to Mr. Fahd and he began his answer by saying “We as a board...” It isn’t we as a board, Mr. Fahd, it is the board and you are their employee. If this board allows the thought of selling the hospital, it is time for some forced resignations and replacements.

And the hospital board is entertaining the idea of privatizing because it has allocated thousands of dollars of hospital money to be paid for consults to come in and see just how feasible it is to sell the hospital. My thoughts are that consultations should be made at hospital expense if there is an offer on the table to buy the hospital. Why is hospital money being spent so frivolously when they say they are having financial problems all of a sudden?

There will be a referendum petition going around. The referendum will be to put the decision of selling the hospital to the people of Massena. It seems that our current boards are failing the public and it is time for the public to decide. It’s time for the boards to put their foot down and stop CEO Fahd from trying to sell the hospital on hospital time. That’s not what he is being paid for. (Actually CEO Fahd makes more then the current vice president of the United States.)

Our hospital has shown that it can be profitable and still operate departments for our community benefit when these departments aren’t showing a profit. Get a new board and start doing the job they are meant to do and it can be profitable again, and then the town board can reap some benefit which in turn would benefit the taxpayer!

Gloria Dupree

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