July 21, 2008

Lee Memorial Hospital Hopes to Find a Partner Soon

By Reinhardt, Eric

FULTON - Officials with A. L. Lee Memorial Hospital in Fulton are feeling a sense of urgency to find a partner hospital somewhere in Central New York, even though the state Health Department is being flexible with its original deadline for creating the partnership.

Richard Abbott, the chairman of the board of directors at A. L. Lee Memorial Hospital in Fulton, told The Business Journal June 24 that he is "cautiously optimistic" the hospital can fmd another regional hospital for a partnership to maintain its 67 beds.

Abbott says Lee Memorial heard nothing new from the state Health Department since a meeting on June 19.

"They're really waiting for us to get back to them with the status of where we are in pursuing a partner between now and the end of the month," says Abbott.

Citing the need to become more efficient and trim Medicaid costs, the Berger Commission called for Lee Memorial to convert to an outpatient clinic and acute-care center by the end of June. But hospital officials have fought the recommendation to close the facility's in-patient and emergency services.

In a meeting on May 31, Abbott says Lee Memorial was told the state Health Department would force it to surrender its operating certificate for a full-service hospital on June 30. The hospital was told it needed to reach agreement with a partner facility on a memorandum of understanding by that date in order to retain emergency services and licensed beds under the partner's operating certificate.

But it was during a meeting on June 19 the state Health Department said it could be flexible with the June 30 deadline, provided Lee Memorial could demonstrate it was trying to find a partner.

It was also on June 19 that Oswego Health, the parent company of Oswego Hospital, announced it would not. pursue an affiliation with Lee emorial. On June 5, officials from the Fulton hospital had presented Oswego Health with an affiliation proposal.

In a statement, Oswego Health described an affiliation relationship as "a legally complex and expensive undertaking that would divert scarce resources from recruiting physicians, developing facilities, and maintaining high quality health care in Oswego County."

Oswego Health felt the affiliation Lee Memorial proposed would jeopardize its financial resources and medical service capabilities. It also didn't feel there was enough time to conduct a thorough review to assess the financial and legal feasibility, since the proposal was presented so close to the state's closure date.

Robert Allen, vice president of communications and governmental affairs at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, says the senior leadership team at Crouse conducted an informational meeting with officials from Lee Memorial the week of June 16-20.

But as of June 24, Crouse has made no decision about a partnership, according to Allen.

Lee Memorial officials also met with the leadership at St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse during the week of June 9-13, says Kerri Ganci, director of public relations and marketing for St. Joseph's. She says the meeting was "informational only."

A spokesman for University Hospital in Syracuse says the hospital had not been contacted by Lee Memorial about the matter as of June 20.

Copyright Central New York Business Journal Jun 27, 2008

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