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Nathan Mayberg | Democrat

FORMER CATSKILL REGIONAL Hospital Director of Nursing Patricia Armstong and V.P. of Facilities Management Martin Kitson, right, gave Senator John Bonacic a tour of the hospital in October.

Area Hospitals Agree To Meet

By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY — December 29, 2006 — They made it through the first date – and they liked each other.
The board of trustees from Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC) and representatives from the board and administration of Orange Regional Medical Center (ORMC) will be meeting Jan. 4 for what Senator John Bonacic is calling their “second date.”
The legislator was behind the Dec. 21 meeting of the two medical organizations at Alan Gerry’s building in Liberty.
After meeting with the board of CRMC at Chairwoman Joyce Salimeno’s insurance office in Monticello earlier in the month, Bonacic said he placed a call to Orange Regional in Middletown.
“I threw out a trial balloon,” he said. “Their plate is full… but I asked if they had an interest in collaboration [with CRMC].
“Within a day, it was ‘yes’,” Bonacic said.
Bonacic sat in on the first meeting, likening it to a first date when the two parties determine if a relationship is possible.
“The more you date, the more you get to know one another,” he said. “This is just the start of the process.”
With 11 hospitals in his district, Bonacic said he’s dealt with healthcare organizations in financial distress three times before.
Two hospitals went bankrupt and a third went out of business.
“I realize how valuable a hospital is to a rural community,” Bonacic said.
With the recent rash of problems at Catskill Regional – upheaval in administration and the layoffs of more than 70 staff members, Bonacic said Sullivan’s only hospital has had a “target on its back.”
And he’s heard from community leaders and CRMC doctors that something has to be done.
With the New York State Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century (more commonly known as the Berger Commission) zeroing in on hospitals and nursing homes they’d like to see close in 2007, Bonacic said he wanted to step in as a shield for Catskill Regional.
“I know Sullivan County needs that hospital desperately,” he said. “I don’t want to see any downsizing of that hospital… we’re in a growth area.
“It’s an integral part of a community to have a hospital.”
The meeting with ORMC was about commonality of geography, Bonacic said, and the opportunities that brings for collaboration.
“I didn’t put these two hospitals together to merger, but to help each other,” he said. “I think it would be mutually beneficial.”
Currently being bandied about are proposals for Orange Regional doctors to practice in Sullivan County, and an expedited accreditation process for CRMC healthcare providers who could be credentialed through ORMC.
Bonacic said he’d also like to see the larger, more solvent ORMC management team step in at CRMC on a consulting basis.
While CRMC is currently paying the Illinois-based for-profit consulting firm Navigant as much as $500,000 to restructure the hospital, Bonacic said the money could be kept local.
The common geography shared by the two hospitals would make the management behind ORMC uniquely suited to speak to the needs at CRMC, he added.
Bonacic said now is the time for CRMC to act.
With the impending closure of dozens of facilities statewide because of the Berger Commission’s report, monies will soon be available to improve hospitals like CRMC.
“I have told Catskill Regional that they have to show positive steps of improvement if we’re going to try to get them some real money,” Bonacic said. “They have to take the steps.
“My top priority is quality healthcare for the people in Sullivan County… I can’t force either hospital to do anything.
“They control their own destiny,” he said.
Orange Regional Spokesman Rob Lee said the hospital is “pleased” to be meeting with CRMC.
“There’s an opportunity to see how we can improve the health of our community,” Lee said.
Salimeno said there’s little to report so far, but promised the details of any plans made will be made public.
“We’re not going to not let the community know,” she said.

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