Two town supervisors have taken steps to support Saratoga Hospital’s projects that expand its services in the Glens Falls area, despite statements in February from Glens Falls Hospital about its profit margin eroding.
In Moreau, the Town Board signed a letter of support for Saratoga Hospital to the state Department of Health. The board wrote that it was supporting the hospital’s certificate of need application for an ambulatory surgery center at Northway Exit 12 in Malta.
The center would be a partnership between Saratoga Hospital, Albany Medical Center Hospital and Capital Region North orthopedic surgeons.
The Town Board said demand is growing for such a facility because of the aging population.
“While the facility would be located in the town of Malta, the town of Moreau and surrounding communities would greatly benefit from the services that would be provided at this facility on an outpatient basis,” Supervisor Todd Kusnierz wrote in the letter.
He added in the letter that he “wholeheartedly” supported the project.
In Queensbury, the Town Board took the first step toward selling a town-owned parking lot to Saratoga Hospital for its proposed urgent care and medical offices at Northway Exit 18.
That project, which would take the place of the vacant Carl R’s restaurant on Main Street, is also going before the Planning Board on April 23.
Queensbury Supervisor John Strough said the town was willing to sell the parking lot behind the former restaurant for the price that was once offered to Carl R’s when it was operating.
“What you do for one, you do for the other, so we’ll keep the same price,” he said.
That price is $27,800, based on the assessor’s valuation of the lot.
It is not used by the town and is somewhat landlocked, next to the Carl R’s building.
“We have no use for it,” Strough said.
Saratoga Hospital still hasn’t announced exactly what it will do with the property.
It’s too early in the process, a hospital spokesman said.
But the hospital is thinking of using it for urgent care and diagnostic services, as well as medical offices for specialties that the hospital already offers in the Glens Falls area, he said.
Those specialties include nephrology and pulmonology.
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The hospital is also assessing community need to identify the services that make the most sense, the spokesman said Tuesday.
While Glens Falls Hospital hasn’t commented specifically on Saratoga Hospital’s plans, Glens Falls Hospital President and CEO Dianne Shugrue invited most local leaders to an invitation-only meeting on Feb. 28 to explain the hospital’s financial situation. She described it as shaky, saying that “we may not be here” if the finances did not improve.
She specifically said the hospital needs to have more outpatient surgery and diagnostic procedures to make ends meet. Surgical cases have reduced by 15% over two years and the hospital is doing 7,000 fewer diagnostic X-rays, a 35% reduction, she said.
“So all of these things have really impacted our revenue stream,” she said. “When people leave our community to have surgery south of us, that’s really hurtful for our ability to keep this place open.”
Later, after public backlash over the fact that she never mentioned the hospital fell into deficit because of a major billing error that cost the hospital $38 million, she back-pedaled on her comments. She said in an ad in The Post-Star that the hospital is on solid financial grounds and is not closing.
Strough was invited to that meeting. Kusnierz was not invited. But both said they did not see a problem with Saratoga Hospital bringing more services up north.
Strough said he hoped a possible partnership between Glens Falls Hospital and Albany Medical Center Hospital in the future would lead to all three hospitals working well together. Saratoga Hospital has already formed a partnership with Albany Medical Center Hospital.
“I’m hoping this relationship between all entities will float all boats,” he said.
Kusnierz said that having more health-care options would help patients.
“I think the more opportunities you have for health care, the better,” he said.
He acknowledged that Glens Falls Hospital officials see the expansion of surgical buildings as a potential revenue problem.
“Obviously, if you’re wedded to being supportive and protective of the hospital, you may see it that way,” he said. “In my role I want to ensure our residents have access to the greatest level and most affordable health care. One of the ways you do that it is you have these facilities.”
He’s not sure what the future will bring.
“I think the health-care services are in transition. There’s a lot of changes in state and federal policies in funding,” he said.
But residents here should recognize that this area has a great treasure in its health care, he said.
“People don’t realize that in our area, people are very fortunate,” he said. “Here we have Glens Falls, Saratoga, Albany Med, St. Peters — we are very fortunate to have all those specialties.”