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Lewis County General Hospital to affiliate with St. Joseph’s, Syracuse

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LOWVILLE — More than a year after Lewis County General Hospital’s board of managers began considering affiliation with a larger regional hospital, officials chose to move forward with St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, Syracuse.

Following a two-and-a-half-hour meeting held in executive session Thursday, the board authorized hospital CEO Eric R. Burch and board President Michael F. Young to enter into exclusive negotiations with St. Joseph’s Hospital and execute a letter of intent in agreement with the proposal submitted by St. Joseph’s.

In seeking requests for affiliation from other facilities, Joseph R. Lupica, chairman of Newpoint Healthcare Advisors LLC, a consultant retained by the hospital’s board of managers, in February said, “We’re taking initiatives on our own. We’re having a wide range of conversations with six different facilities.”

Five of those facilities returned requests to the board, which were considered Thursday before St. Joseph’s Hospital was selected.

Mr. Young, in a news release, said Lewis County General will explore a wide range of topics with St. Joseph’s.

“Our objective is to improve upon the already excellent health care we offer inside Lewis County’s service area and explore a relationship that will help us meet Lewis County’s health care needs far into the future,” the release said. “We’ll be approaching discussions with St. Joseph’s Hospital with open minds.”

Certain objectives are likely to be critical, Mr. Young, said.

“We want to preserve existing patterns of healthcare in the community. We want to become a more sustainable driver of the local economy. We want to retain our employees, our name, autonomous governance and our county-owned status.” he said in the release. “And the Board is confident that with St. Joseph’s Hospital, we can make these things happen.”

Lewis County physicians had been consulted before the board made a decision, said Dr. Catherine Williams, the hospital’s medical director.

“The board has physician support for the idea of aligning ourselves with a health system that understands the new demands of population-based healthcare. Ultimately, we want to keep care close to home, and possibly even expand the services we can offer here, while establishing a seamless connection with the specialized services of a major medical center. If we can accomplish that, that’s good medicine, and we support it,” Dr. Williams said in the release.

Mark Murphy, senior vice president for system development and ambulatory care leadership for St. Joseph’s Hospital, said in the hospital release, “We’re pleased to be working with Lewis County General to help bring about positive healthcare changes in rural Upstate New York. Through this affiliation, we will provide management expertise that will allow the healthcare professionals in Lewis County to do what they do best — deliver high quality care to their patients.”

Mr. Burch stressed the goal was to retain county-owned status and enhance the services offered in Lewis County, while retaining employment under a financially sustainable model.

“This relationship will allow us to meet our community’s healthcare needs for the long term. With the progress our employees and medical staff have made on quality and financial performance, we are now able to adapt to a challenging economic environment while expanding services and enhancing the quality of our care,” Mr. Burch said. “Our commitment to clinical excellence and compassionate local care will not waiver.”

Lewis County is one of seven hospitals participating in the North Country Initiative which, combined with a HEAL capital project, will undertake activities to plan and facilitate shared governance, inpatient reduction and health care service restructuring with Medicaid rate adjustment for operational support of those activities.

“The fact that we have affiliated with St. Joseph’s Hospital doesn’t change our commitment to the North Country Initiative. We look forward to continuing to work with all facilities in the North Country,” Mr. Young said in the release.

Leadership teams from both organizations will work closely to form a joint strategic plan and finalize the definitive affiliation and required regulatory approval process, which is expected to take at least six months, according to Lewis County officials.

Following the meeting, Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, former hospital committee chairman, said, “I feel the board made a good decision on whom to start affiliation discussions with. It should be a benefit to LCGH but more importantly, long term to the people in our county.”

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center is a 431-bed general medical and surgical hospital.

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