Several dozen Massena hospital employees, town residents protest supervisor's handling of MMH board
Above, protestors gather outside the Massena Town Hall before Thursday's Town Council meeting. North Country Now photo by Andy Gardner.
By ANDY GARDNER
North Country NowMASSENA -- Several dozen Massena Memorial Hospital employees and town residents protested outside the Town Hall prior to Thursday's Town Council meeting to protest the supervisor's recent handling of the MMH board.
The meeting also included a hearing on Town Supervisor Steve O'Shaughnessy's firing of MMH board chair Carol Fenton.
MMH is in the process of transitioning to a privatized non-profit facility. Part of that process includes affiliating with a larger health network. In December, the MMH board voted to pursue affiliation with Claxton-Hepburn/Crouse Hospital. Town Council members want them to also consider St. Lawrence Health System, which oversees Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Gouverneur Hospital. Meanwhile, Town Supervisor Steve O'Shaughnessy has fired their last two board chairs, their current vice chair, and didn't re-appoint a third chairman when his term expired Dec. 31.
Demonstrators displayed signs with messages like "What you don't say says everything," "Massena needs a hospital not a Bandaid station" and "Who's pulling your strings Steve?"
Diane Meyer, a retired nurse, said she showed up to the demonstration because she is afraid the town could lose its hospital.
"I think we need a hospital in this town desperately," she said.
Pam Barclay said she is concerned that if the hospital were to close or scale back, the elderly could have trouble driving longer distances to get to medical appointments.
"We are a senior community," she said. "Not everybody has family, neighbors and friends to take them."
Clyde Leffler, an MMH endoscopy clerk, said he joined the gathering out of concern that St. Lawrence Health System taking over MMH could lead to reduced services in town.
"I'm concerned about our hospital. I'm concerned a CPH takeover means loss of services and loss of a lot of jobs," he said.
Gina Bain, who works in the MMH information technology department, also said she's concerned about MMH possibly losing services.
"If we cut jobs and cut services, what's going to keep people here?" Bain said.
John Horan, a former MMH board member who's term expired at the end of last year, said he came to support the town residents.
"I'm happy the community is expressing an opinion, whatever that may be," Horan said.
He had asked to not be re-appointed to the MMH board, and said the recent turmoil was part of his reasoning to not continue.
"It was a combination of things. Some was personal ... and I was concerned with the way things were moving with regard to the town board," Horan said.
Sue Bellor, who was MMH board chair for four days before O'Shaughnessy fired her Jan. 4, said she came to the demonstration because she thinks the MMH-town rift is causing big problems for both the hospital and town.
"It seems to be getting worse. I feel as though he's destroying the whole core of the Board of Managers," Bellor said.
She said the frequent developments have left her worried about what could unfold next.
"What's going to happen next week, I wonder," she said.