HORNELL — It was close to a year ago that the St. James Mercy Health System set up an agreement with Rochester-based UR Medicine, providing the hospital with an opportunity to preserve quality health care services in Hornell.
After a day of negotiations between two hospitals starting at 7 a.m., a decision was reached by the St. James Mercy Health System board of directors Tuesday night to continue the relationship with UR Medicine.
Jennifer Sullivan, president and CEO of St. James Mercy Hospital, and Steve Goldstein, CEO of Strong Memorial Hospital and Highland Hospital, talked to the Evening Tribune after the decision was made.
They confirmed this agreement will preserve more jobs that the roughly 400 that were expected to be retained, that it includes a commitment to an inpatient presence and that it includes maternity care services.
Goldstein and Sullivan said the plan agreed on late Tuesday remains subject to review, and approval by the New York State Department of Health.
On Jan. 27, 581 employees of St. James received a federally-mandated notice that their employment would end but that the hospital hoped to bring back close to 400 of those employees.
Tuesday, that number increased.
Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan told the Tribune: "This is a win for Hornell and it's going to be great to start getting back some inpatient services. Now we need to work with the U of R to keep increasing the levels of care and get this hospital back to full service."
The St. James Board of Trustees on Tuesday met with representatives from Rochester Regional Health Systems at 7 a.m. (formerly Rochester General) then had a 4 p.m. presentation from UR Medicine.
After the decision was made, Sullivan spoke with Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning, and she credited Hogan for his work.
Goldstein said the work is just beginning to help Hornell. He said in addition to asking for additional funding and help from the state Department of Health, they will be submitting a proposal to the University of Rochester trustees.
"We've been working with Jennifer Sullivan and the St. James board of directors and the New York state Department of Health for over a year on a plan to maintain vital health care services in Hornell and the surrounding communities," Goldstein told the Evening Tribune. "We're pleased to have the opportunity to work with the community and local physicians to build programs and facilities that will serve that community for decades to come.
"We're going to be working closely with the medical staff and the board of directors and the board of health to ensure a provision of (patient) services in Hornell," he added.
Sullivan said the reason this has taken so long was the hospital did not just want a stop-gap measure. She said it sought a commitment to help the hospital with adding employees back and patient care while looking toward the future.
"What is important to know is that we are designing something that is strong and financially viable for the region," Sullivan said. "We are looking for a long-term, sustainable solution to preserve healthcare in the community for decades to come. We are working with New York state and the University of Rochester healthcare providers to bring services to the community, making the plan work for the entire region."
As for maternity, she said, "Sustaining maternity services in Hornell is a challenging issue because the utilization is so low. We are working toward a regional solution for maternity and will provide more information regarding the plan for deliveries going forward. We anticipate that OB-GYN services will continue in Hornell."
Sullivan did not address total numbers for services, but said, "We talked about an inpatient presence and about moving forward with an agreement with UR Medicine."
Sullivan then reiterated adding more jobs that expected.
"It was decided (Tuesday), along with many decisions over the past few months, to preserve most of the workforce," she said. "We anticipate that this plan will preserve more jobs, and that will be good news for Hornell."
In a statement, Sullivan said, "We are delighted to reaffirm our commitment to our dedicated partner in UR Medicine, and we applaud the efforts of community leaders — Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan, in particular — who have fought tirelessly for a sustained inpatient presence."
Local officials, hospital staff, and others organized an effort to save the hospital in recent months, which has included a massive petition effort calling on the New York State Department of Health to keep inpatient services and a maternity department at the hospital. Dozens of local towns, villages, school boards, and the Steuben County Legislature passed a resolution calling for the state Health Department to maintain a full service hospital in Hornell.
In a statement, Hogan said, "The residents of Hornell deserve robust healthcare services that include inpatient beds. We most definitely are headed in the right direction, and I will do all I can to support the efforts of St. James and UR Medicine in securing the necessary approvals and funding for this healthcare transformation.”
St. James officials said they have worked closely to refine a vision for healthcare in Hornell that builds upon the strength of the region’s healthcare landscape and ensures uninterrupted access to quality healthcare services for the city’s residents.
“Today’s announcement affirms UR Medicine’s commitment to our continued evolution to a sustainable, financially viable healthcare presence for Hornell and the surrounding communities,” said Sullivan. “This commitment comes from the highest levels of the University of Rochester, as evidenced by University President Joel Seligman’s presence at the Board meeting (Tuesday)."
Mark Taubman, M.D., CEO of UR Medicine, said "We remain steadfast in our shared commitment to the Hornell community. We are energized by the board’s affirmation of our path forward, and by the opportunity to create a lasting health care presence that will serve the community for many years to come.”
UR Medicine is no stranger to the Southern Tier. In addition to operating Strong Memorial Hospital and Highland Hospital in Rochester, and Thompson Health in Canandaigua, UR Medicine also has formal collaborative clinical relationships with Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville, Nicholas Noyes Memorial Hospital in Dansville and Wyoming County Community Health System in Warsaw.
St. James Mercy Hospital has served Hornell and the surrounding communities since 1890 and is a not-for-profit health organization.
Tribune city editor Neal Simon contributed to this report.