Renovation of Former Lee Memorial Hospital Held Up by Land Ownership Issue

The former Lee Memorial Hospital, now the site of an urgent care center operated by Oswego Health.
The former Lee Memorial Hospital, now the site of an urgent care center operated by Oswego Health.

A snag has developed in Oswego Health’s plans to buy and renovate the closed Lee Memorial Hospital to house more medical services.

Bankrupt Lee Memorial doesn’t own the land the hospital building sits on.

Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward said Monday that he was recently approached by a member of Lee Memorial’s board of directors, local attorney Fred Sumner. He said Sumner told him that Oswego Health’s offer to buy the hospital is being held up by the judge in Lee Memorial’s bankruptcy case.

The judge wants the issue of who owns the land to be cleared up before approving the sale of the land.

Woodward said that in 1974, when Lee Memorial moved into its new facility, the city turned over operation of the hospital and ownership of the land beneath it to a private board of directors. Part of that agreement included a clause that if Lee Memorial should ever stop being a hospital, the land would revert to the city.

Lee Memorial closed last year after state legislators approved a commission’s report ordering several hospitals across the state to be closed or downsized to save money.

Oswego Health recently held an event to reveal plans to renovate the hospital so that additional medical services could be moved to the facility, which houses an urgent care center that saw 19,000 patients in its first year. The state is providing $18 million to help pay for the renovation.

Oswego Health officials, including CEO Ann Gilpin, attended a closed-door executive session with city lawmakers and the city attorney last week to discuss the issue.

Woodward would like to trade the title for a guarantee that the $18,000 in Lee Memorial’s unpaid water and sewer fees will be paid. “Probably, if we don’t release that title (to the land), Oswego Health’s going to go away,” he said. The city will likely get only pennies on the dollar for its unpaid bills through the bankruptcy proceeding.

“What I hope doesn’t happen is that it goes down because people are mad about the hospital closing,” he said. “I think we need to get on with life and we need to have the best health care in Fulton and that’s where it’s going to be.”

City lawmakers may hold a public hearing at next Tuesday’s meeting to gather pubic input on the issue.

Prior coverage:


  1. I’ve followed this story with interest since the state started this disaster. As a former Fultonian it’s hard for me to believe that Fulton needed to be singled out as the community that didn’t need a hospital. The millions in support that the state has provided to Oswego Health, including the promised $18 million dollars to renovate the hospital seems counter intuitive to the state’s requirement to save money on the delivery of health care in the area.
    In any event, the hospital was closed and a huge gift was made to Oswego Health with a free building and a virtual monopoly on health care services in Oswego County. Now the taxpaying citizens of the city of Fulton are being asked to enhance that gift by giving away the land that legally and rightfully belongs to them. Giving it away. Let me say this again…giving it away.
    Let Oswego Health buy it if they want it. They’re making plenty of cash on this deal. Unlike the mayor, I hope the citizens of Fulton stand up and say NO.

  2. Here is an idea…How about negotiating a commitment from Oswego Health to pursue a Branch Emergency Room as part of the project, to co-exist with Urgent Care, in exchange for the land? After all, anyone with a scanner can hear how many times an ambulance must be summoned to Urgent Care a day to transport to a hospital. Why not have a facility to stabilize them first, then transport if necessary? A one-day surgery center would also be a plus.

    Of the 19,000 visits so far this year (and I thought Lee didn’t get that many patients in an entire year?), I would love to see the ratio of how many visits actually needed bona fide emergency care? I am sure the people of Oswego would appreciate a little less crowded Emergency Room in their hospital.

    To Oswego Health, and Mr. Mayor: You want the support of the people of Fulton, now is your chance!

    Ralph E. Stacy, Jr.
    4th Ward Resident, City of Fulton

  3. I still don’t understand why they closed the hospital in Fulton but then turned around and gave millions to Oswego Hospital to expand for the expected new patients from Fulton to come there. Shouldn’t they have just given the money to the Fulton Hospital to keep it open?

  4. Toni:

    Here’s the argument from the state, and you can decide for yourself whether it was the right argument or not:

    There were too many hospitals in the state, all of them using some public money. To make healthcare a little less expensive for taxpayers, an independent commission studied all of the state’s hospitals and decided which ones had to go. In Lee Memorial’s case, the commission said the hospital’s work could be absorbed by Oswego Hospital to the north and the Syracuse hospitals to the south.

    But there remained a need for primary care — something less than a hospital emergency room visit and inpatient rooms. So the state gave Oswego Health money to open and expand an urgent care center in Fulton to meet the need that is there.

    That’s the argument.

  5. Ron you need to stick to your convictions. Make Oswego Health pay the back water and sewer bills. Oswego Health isn’t going any where. This “DEAL” to acquire the hospital was written in stone years ago. You know it and so do all the other politicians in the county. Fulton could use that $18,000. Don’t throw it away. Maybe you should see about going after Dennis Casey and the rest of the board who filed the bankruptcy as they sure all got there share of money out of this deal! This was a set-up deal with the handwritting on the wall since the first day it was announced. You’ve always been for the working man Ron. Hold to your convictions and keep the political end out of it and at least get that $18,000 before you give them the land title.

  6. According to the Oswego County tax assessors records, the hospital itself was assessed at $5.8 Million in 2010. That was a gift to Oswego Health, along with all of the residential properties along S. Fourth St and the surrounding areas that were also owned by the hospital. The land on which the hospital building sits was assessed in 2009 for $91,000.00. I assume the City of Fulton could use that $91,000.00 Rather than just handing it over for an $18,000.00 payment of back water bills. What the heck.

  7. The city of Fulton should NOT just let Oswego Hospital have the former Fulton hospital for the cost of past sewer and water bill. Make them buy it out directly. They already own all of Oswego county. Oswego already has had their free ride and a open agenda . N.Y. state is giving them 18 million dollars to upgrade this facility. Lee memorial just got done remodeling before they closed their doors on April 2oth.NOW, that’s what you talk-about a TRUE WASTE of money. Why do we need a bigger urgent care? I’ll tell YOU why ? Cause, once they upgrade it, you will see them trying to get a trauma center where the former E.R. was. I had heard Oswego is in the process of doing out patient surgery there again. Look at the ad that Oswego hospital sent out to the public about their updated renovations they are planning to do. It shows right out, how they are going to make a surgery suite. YOU have to look at it closely cause you can hardly see the printing on it. But, I’m sure Oswego hospital wanted it that way so they wouldn’t have to hear the public ranting & raving until the project was finished . Make Oswego pay full price for the land and building. It should be voted on by the tax payers, After all it belongs to all of us citizens in Fulton. Don’t let their hand pick board members decide for us. Oswego’s or Fulton’s. They have already done enough damage to us ALL ! Just ask around what the public thinks about the Fulton / Oswego board members? If you disagree with them, then you are no longer a part of their circle of life .

  8. The first commenter is doing just what Woodward predicted and hoped would NOT happen, for the sake of health care access in Fulton. Read the opening of the article. Oswego Health is planning to BUY the former Lee Memorial Building. Nowhere does it say it’s a free handout. Nowhere does it say the land will be a free handout. It was suggested that the land be traded in return for their $18,000 in debt being transferred. Why the anger? I realize there’s a lot of anger and discontent in Fulton for the hospital failing financially over the years and ending up in bankruptcy, but you shouldn’t take that anger out on Oswego Health or the state. Why is there anger that Oswego Health would like to restore surgical services to Fulton? Oswego did not take them away from Fulton. Lee Memorial had financial problems and could not sustain itself. Don’t look to blame outsiders for that. NYS closed the hospital, not Oswego Health. Fulton wasn’t just singled out because NYS decided a hospital wasn’t necessary in the area. They were singled out because of their financial problems. Emergency Department’s cost much much more than urgent care. Look at a bill. Urgent care visits are reimbursed at the same rate as your primary care visit. ER visits are at least 5x more for the same services, often. It does make sense that the state fund Oswego Health’s renovations, because OH makes a profit. It’s a good investment and OH has shown to be able to sustain itself. They’re not a monopoly because they own a hospital, urgent care center, imaging centers, and a clinic. Most of the physicians in Oswego County are in private practice or a state organized practice. Mr. Stacy, you’re implying that a large percentage of patients at the urgent care center actually needed emergency services? I highly doubt that’s the case. In any ER, most patients would do just fine with urgent care. In urgent care, you typically get less serious illnesses/injuries, so I don’t think your assumption is correct. It is Oswego Health who is trying to return needed health services to your area. It’s good for your economy and the health of the citizens. Be grateful, not bitter.

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