Massena Memorial Hospital meeting airs privatization worries

Members of the public at Monday night's meeting in Massena. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Members of the public at Monday night’s meeting in Massena. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Last night at Dar’s in Massena, a group opposed to the idea of  privatizing Massena Memorial Hospital held a public meeting to talk about why they say the idea’s not a good one. The group, called the MMH Community Coalition (which includes members of the public and from CSEA, the union that represents many of the hospital’s workers), spoke to a crowd of about 30 last night. The Watertown Daily Times and North Country Now have both reported on the meeting, and say one of the big arguments the coalition made is that hospital officials aren’t telling the whole story when they talk about why they want to privatize the hospital.

Backing up briefly, members of the MMH Board of Managers voted last week to hire a law firm to explore the possibility to transitioning the hospital, which is now publicly owned, to private, not-for-profit ownership. A major argument they’ve made for privatization (or for considering it) is that the hospital’s pension costs are dramatically increasing and would be likely to drop substantially if the hospital is privatized.

Speakers at the meeting. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Speakers at the meeting. Photo: Natasha Haverty

This is a remarkably complicated argument, and I won’t rehash it here. But Sean Egan, director of member benefits and community relations at CSEA’s headquarters in Albany, who spoke at the meeting, says it’s not just about pension money — it’s about services as well. This from the

Watertown Daily Times:

Mr. Egan said that, although members of the CSEA had an interest in keeping Massena Memorial as a public facility, it’s also in the best interest of the community. He noted that the hospital’s Dialysis Clinic was losing money and might end up on the chopping block if the hospital were a private facility or, in some cases, merge that service with one at another location. Both scenarios could mean longer drives for patients who need that service.

“If it goes private, do you think they’re going to keep services that are not making money?” he said.

There’s now some talk of a public referendum being held that would give local residents a say in the matter. So we’ll see what happens with that.

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