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Partnership Could Save Services At Lee Memorial, State Says

FULTON, NY – Optimism has entered the scene for A.L. Lee Memorial Hospital. According to the New York State Health Department, a partnership with Oswego Health could mean emergency and some level of acute services would be saved in Fulton.

“It looks like they might be able to keep the emergency room at Lee Memorial if they enter an agreement with Oswego Hospital,” said Claudia Hutton, director of Public Affairs for the New York State Health Department. “They need an affiliation.”

Hutton said that state Senator Darrel Aubertine has been very helpful in working with all parties to find the middle ground to save some services for Fulton. Aubertine’s office issued a release Tuesday to announce the agreement was close. (Click HERE to read that release.)

“If Senator Aubertine can get everyone together to hook Lee Memorial with a partner to meet Berger, that’s a good thing,” Hutton said.

“Everyone has worked hard on this… to make things happen that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have,” Aubertine said Tuesday. “I just want to make sure that Fulton and Oswego County are well served and have access to the best health care we have available.”

Aubertine said that because changes have been approved for other facilities around the state to meet Berger, he saw no reason why Fulton’s hospital couldn’t benefit from the same type of agreement.

“It’s been done in other parts of the state for other facilities,” Aubertine said. “I couldn’t see any reason why we couldn’t replicate what’s been done (elsewhere). Why it wasn’t done sooner, I am not sure. But the reality is, it’s being done now.

“I am just trying to keep the commitments I made to people in Fulton and Oswego County back in February,” he added.

Lee Memorial submitted its conversion plan at the end of 2007 to comply with the Berger Commission recommendations to close inpatient and emergency care in Fulton. The health department’s original deadline to announce its decisions from the review of that plan was March 31. That deadline was extended to June 30.

Hutton said that the health department is still working within that time frame.

“We haven’t got a big packet of information (from Lee Memorial and Oswego Health) to review yet,” Hutton said.

“Lee is in discussions with Oswego about creating a new corporate structure for the emergency room and beds that would put Lee in compliance with the Berger recommendations,” Hutton added. “I can’t say we will approve it but we will review it.

“We will review any plan as long as it meets Berger,” she said.

Hutton noted that the health department does not know what the fine details of the plan will be.

“Our people will review the proposal,” she said. “We should be able to review everything and have a decision by the time June 30 comes, if not before.”

Aubertine said the details of the agreement are still in development.

“I have met with the health department a number of times, will Lee Memorial a number of times and with various community leaders to make something happen,” Aubertine said. “We’re obviously getting some movement here. That’s a good thing for health care in Oswego County.

“We still have a ways to go,” Aubertine noted. “But we’ve certainly opened the door. … There is a lot of work to be done but the opportunity to do that exists now, where it didn‘t before.”

Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward said that Tuesday’s announcement came as welcome news. He said he is looking forward to seeing the details unfold.

“That would be much better than what the alternative was,” Woodward said.

[Editor’s Note: Below is a brief video statement from Sen. Aubertine, provided by his office.]