WMCHealth reinforces commitment as facility closure discussions loom

Potential closure of Westchester Medical Center Health Network's Margaretville, N.Y.-based Mountainside Residential Care Center and its Margaretville Hospital was discussed during a Jan. 8 Delaware County Public Safety Committee meeting, the Daily Star reported Jan. 9. 

"To be clear, WMCHealth remains committed to Delaware County, and we have no plans to close Margaretville Hospital nor Mountainside Residential Care Center," a WMCHealth statement shared with Becker's said. 

The discussions came after a group of legislators representing Ulster County, N.Y., urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to end a dispute with Valhalla, N.Y.-based WMCHealth to avoid service cuts at the system's Margaretville and Kingston, N.Y hospitals. 

"It is incumbent upon all partners, Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) and the state, to come to an immediate financial agreement and keep our hospital on track to continue the services currently provided and to continue the expansion of healthcare services promised by both institutions," New York state Sen. Michelle Hinchey wrote in a letter to Ms. Hochul. 

Delaware County public safety officials also said they would draft a resolution to urge Ms. Hochul's office to continue state funding for the facilities, according to the Daily Star.

WMCHealth told Becker's it remains in discussions with the state to address "unanticipated challenges."

"WMCHealth continues to have active conversations with New York State officials on a new financial stabilization plan for HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley (HAHV) — which includes Margaretville Hospital and Mountainside Residential Care Center," the statement said. 

In 2016, WMCHealth received a state department of health request to assume management of HAHV, a member of WMCHealth, which was dealing with operating inefficiencies and significant financial challenges at the time, the statement said.

WMCHealth agreed for the state's DOH to assume responsibility over HAHV in 2019, with the two developing a five-year stabilization plan supported by the state's funding along with WNCHealth funds. 

The plan allowed for development, including a new HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, but did not account for COVID-19 cost escalations or the closure of another HealthAlliance hospital in Kingston to prepare for COVID-19 surge hospital use by the state.

"WMCHealth has continued to invest in the original plan, and we are now simply asking New York State for continued good faith financial support as well as a timeline extension. Continued support from New York State coupled with a plan extension will help us reach our joint goal of a sustainable financial future for HAHV absent of state funding," the statement said. 

WMCHealth added that it is not looking for additional state support without its own financial commitment to the plan, noting that it contributed more than $70 million in the last two years to the plan, according to the statement.

WMCHealth has previously been accused of waging a "misinformation campaign" by Ms. Hochul and her team, who argue that the system has enough funding to avoid hospital service cuts, including $160 million in state taxpayer dollars over five years. 

"We will continue to engage with local elected officials, WMCHealth and HealthAlliance to discuss the system's future path to sustainability, and any changes they are considering making to the organization to achieve that sustainability," a spokesperson for Ms. Hochul's office told Becker's in a previous statement. 


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