July 24, 2008

Board Yet to Take Action on Fox Request

By Patricia Breakey, The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.

Jul. 24--DELHI -- Delaware County has not acted on the Delhi Town Board's request to reconsider its refusal to sell property for a Fox Care clinic.

One week after the request, no date has been set for a special Delaware County Board of Supervisors meeting, though county Board Chairman James Eisel said a committee meeting is being planned.

At issue is a portion of the former Wickham Sales and Service at 2 Bridge St., which the town board asked the county to sell to A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital for $151,000.

Delhi Supervisor Peter Bracci said Wednesday that he has not received word about the request.

On Friday, Dan Ayres, O'Connor Hospital administrator, issued an internal memo to his employees and staff indicating that the hospital will oppose Fox Care's application for a state-issued certificate of need.

"Fox coming to Delhi is not a done deal," Ayres wrote. "Fox coming to Delhi will affect O'Connor in terms of lost ancillary volumes and diverting patients. O'Connor is and will be opposing Fox opening a primary care site."

Bracci said the property was advertised and Fox Care was the only bidder, but the county's Public Works Committee decided not to approve the sale because of concerns about competition with O'Connor, also in Delhi.

"I have heard nothing but positive things from the community, and I have not heard a word about a special meeting," Bracci said Wednesday. "Health care is too important to play games with. I'm going to fight like crazy for what's best for my town."

Eisel said Wednesday that the Delhi Town Board's request for a meeting is "on the back burner." He said the county's Public Works Committee is planning a second meeting to discuss the issue.

Eisel added that he is concerned about selling the property to a nonprofit organization, as when it was purchased, the resolution specified that a portion of the former Wickham site would eventually be sold and returned to the tax rolls.

The property was purchased by Delaware County in 2006 to house the highway department, but the resolution included provisions to sell the corner parcel, which fronts Main and Bridge streets, and a portion of the parcel where the Wickham shop was located.

"It's unfortunate that they are trying to block (Fox Care)," Fox President John Remillard said Wednesday. "There are plenty of patients for O'Connor and Fox to co-exist in Delhi.

"We have a number of patients who live in Delhi and it would make care more convenient with less travel and we have an obligation to do what is best for our patients," Remillard said.

Ayres said Wednesday that he didn't have additional comments.

"This is a pretty significant community issue, and I do not want to have the issue debated in the press," Ayres said. "I don't want to get into a back and forth with Fox."

Ayres said he plans to attend the next Delhi Town Board meeting to explain his concerns.

The proposed Fox Care clinic would include nine exam rooms, and when fully staffed, the practice would employ three medical providers, including a physician and nurse practitioners or physician assistants.

The practice is expected to have 900 patients per month and will also offer urgent-care visits and walk-in visits, according to a project description provided by the Oneonta-based hospital.

Remillard said there are three doctors retiring in Delhi, and with a national physician shortage, recruiting doctors for Delhi would be accomplished more quickly if both Fox and O'Connor were recruiting.

Bracci said he has been working with Fox for more than six months to find an appropriate location in Delhi for a clinic. He said three other properties were considered, including space in the former Ames plaza, a vacant lot and the recently vacated Great American building.

"The owners of Ames plaza didn't want anything but retail, the lot didn't work with the architect's design and the Great American was way out of line for Fox's budget," Bracci said.

The next regularly scheduled county Board of Supervisors meeting is at 1 p.m. Aug. 20.


Patricia Breakey can be reached at [email protected] or at 746-2894.


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