Massena hospital board votes to close Brasher clinic with no layoffs; contracts for ER docs
Friday, August 16, 2019 - 9:55 am

BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week

MASSENA -- The Massena Memorial Hospital Board of Managers at a special Friday morning meeting voted to close their Brasher clinic, but the jobs will be preserved. The board also voted to contract with St. Lawrence Health System for emergency room physicians.

MMH CEO David Bender said the Brasher clinic would likely interfere with the hospital’s pending application for critical access designation. He said they were trying to get the clinic designated as part of a “Health Professional Shortage Area,” which wouldn’t interfere, but they don't have enough time to make that happen.

"We expect any day now to have a survey for our critical access status. The only problem with the Brasher clinic is it's within 15 minutes of Canton-Potsdam (Hospital), and that will potentially invalidate approval of critical access,” Bender said Friday morning.

Critical access designation is based on total number of beds, average patient's length of stay, and proximity to the nearest hospital. If MMH gets approved, it will improve the struggling hospital's reimbursement for Medicaid patients.

Bender said the Brasher clinic’s employees will keep their jobs.

"There won't be any layoff of staff. There's ample positions for them here,” Bender said. "There's another clinic in Brasher run by Canton-Potsdam Hospital."

In addition to the clinic closure, the MMH board signed a separate deal to contract with St. Lawrence Health System for emergency department physicians.

Bender said MMH now contracts for the ER doctors with a company called Team Health, but they are behind on their payments and Team Health has announced their last day in Massena will be Aug. 31.

"We were far behind on payments. You're all aware of the cash flow issues we've been having. They are still owed ... several hundred thousand dollars we're behind. They've agreed to a payment plan,” Bender said.

When asked why the vote on the SLHS deal couldn’t wait until the regular MMH board meeting on Monday, Bender said the deal is subject to Department of Health approval.

“We want to make sure we have an open emergency room on Sept. 1,” the CEO said.

The votes followed a roughly 20-minute executive session that MMH board Chair Loretta Perez initially called for a “contract review.” She later clarified that the discussion would be to discuss “matters leading to the appointment of a particular corporation.”