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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

SCOTT BATULIS, LEFT, the CEO of Orange Regional Medical Center and head of the Greater Hudson Valley Health System, chats with Hal Teitelbaum, managing partner of Crystal Run Healthcare. Catskill Regional Medical Center will have an affiliation with both medical groups.

CRMC To Be 'Allied,' Not Merged With ORMC and Crystal Run Healthcare

By Jeanne Sager
HARRIS — June 29, 2007 — Catskill Regional Medical Center will remain open, but the power’s been shifted to Middletown.
The cash-strapped hospital with facilities in Harris and Callicoon announced an impending “affiliation” Tuesday with Orange Regional Medical Center and its two facilities in Middletown and Goshen.
Departing CRMC Board Chair Joyce Salimeno said the two will act as “independent, stand-alone hospitals.”
And she said the hospital’s financial state is “improving,” something officials from both hospitals hope will be boosted by the impending return of Crystal Run Healthcare physicians to CRMC this summer.
No more staff changes are expected, with the exception of a new chief executive who Salimeno promised will soon be appointed to replace former head Art Brien, who resigned last fall.
But the real new head of Catskill Regional will be Scott Batulis, the CEO of Orange Regional who acts as head of the Greater Hudson Valley Health System (GHVHS).
Orange Regional is currently the sole affiliate of GHVHS, but Catskill Regional has applied for permission from the state health department to join them.
GHVHS will become a sort of parent company, taking on management of the Sullivan County facilities but skirting the responsibilities for Catskill Regional’s debt.
Batulis said that’s one of the reasons the move cannot be called a “merger.”
With ORMC poised to build a new facility in the Middletown area, taking on the financial baggage of CRMC was seen as a burden.
It would “confuse the bond market,” Batulis said, and could endanger the building project.
But the management contract, which leaves day-to-day operations in the hands of administration in Harris but requires they answer to GHVHS in Middletown, is expected to help CRMC make a recovery.
Also changing is the make-up of the CRMC board which has been dealt a hefty blow one member of the healthcare community called “emasculating” after Tuesday’s announcement.
Salimeno is being moved to the GHVHS board.
Darrell Supak, one of the newest members of the CRMC board who acts as billionaire Alan Gerry’s right-hand man, will take on an additional role as a member of the GHVHS board.
A new Catskill Regional board will be formed, with former member Gerald Skoda at its head and new members of the community being asked even now to volunteer.
That board will also be answering to the higher GHVHS board.
Senator John Bonacic, who helped engineer the joint venture, bringing the two parties to the table late last year, said he’s convinced this is the best option for everyone involved.
“Today it’s important for hospitals in close proximity to work with each other, to share services and perhaps share specialties,” he explained. “During this process, maybe some egos were bruised, maybe some people were angry.
“But this is about providing quality healthcare,” he continued. “The hard work begins today.”
Bonacic’s position was buoyed by the recent application of Crystal Run Healthcare physicians for privileges at Catskill Regional.
Crystal Run head Dr. Hal Teitelbaum pulled his employees out of Harris last June, reporting a number of quality concerns to the state health department and demanding more transparency from Catskill Regional’s board.
The move has been blamed for blowing wide a hole in the already sinking ship of the CRMC financial.
Teitelbaum’s physicians have long been affiliated with ORMC, and he pledged his faith in Batulis’ leadership.
“There’s a real emphasis at Orange Regional under Scott on compliance and ethical behavior,” Teitelbaum said. “I think that will spill over to Catskill Regional.
“The public has to regain faith in the quality of care [at CRMC],” Teitelbaum noted. “I hope the community realizes if we’re here and Orange Regional is here, we have a strong commitment to working with Catskill Regional.”
Teitelbaum said he sees the three organizations – his for-profit center and the non-profit hospitals – being able to provide the kind of care he’d feel confident to sign his own family members up for.
With primary care physicians and those in the medical subspecialties at Crystal Run and expected to be in place at Catskill Regional again by late July, and more specialties such as surgical and OB/GYN expected to receive privileges by fall, Teitelbaum said there Sullivan’s residents will once again have access to the services they received prior to the pullout.
At that time, there were 62 Crystal Run physicians working with CRMC.
“There’s an opportunity here to stem the out migration for healthcare, which is good for everyone,” Teitelbaum said.
Bonacic also pointed to funding that will be made available to both hospitals by the affiliation.
The Berger Commission (officially the New York State Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century) has made funds available for facilities that have agreed to share services, he said, and that could mean state monies in local pockets.
Batulis said the future of the affiliation is subject to change.
He pledged the two will remain separate, but services will “meld where it makes sense.”
He credited CMRC Chief Financial Officer Nick Lanza and his team with “stemming the flow of losses” at Catskill Regional.
Batulis expects to have a better grasp on the financial expectations for CMRC after Crystal Run returns and after the affiliation is made official – which is expected August 1.

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