As state OK nears, CMH explains Albany Med deal

HUDSON–Columbia Memorial Health is one step away from completing its affiliation agreement with Albany Medical Center following preliminary approval from the state Department of Health last week.

The hospital issued a release Tuesday, September 29, saying the agreement will allow for a “more efficient healthcare system and improved access to specialty care” in Columbia and Greene counties. It also said that CMH will maintain board of trustees, management and employees.

But the terms of the agreement, reported last week in the Times Union newspaper and verified by the release show that Albany Med will have the power to approve appointments to the CMH board, and will also, in consultation with the CMH board, approve the hiring or firing of the CEO of the Hudson hospital, as well the CMH budget and any plans to borrow more $1 million.

The agreement was first announced in July 2014 but the terms were not disclosed at that time.

The Establishment Committee of the state Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) approved the agreement between CMH and Albany Med September 24 at a meeting in New York City. The full PHHPC is expected to take up the measure for final approval on October 8.

Under the agreement submitted to the state, CMH will “maintain its own corporate identity.” It will also keep its own Board of Trustees; its own management structure, executives, directors, managers and supervisors; its own medical staff leadership, medical staff, and medical staff bylaws; its own Foundation with its specific board, and continue to raise funds to be used solely for CMH, and; maintain its own employees, continue to determine its own salary and benefit structure, maintain its own employment policies, and negotiate and continue to maintain its union contracts.

“This agreement is truly unique,” CMH President and CEO Jay P. Cahalan said in the release. “It’s not a merger or consolidation. It’s not a sale, and it’s not an acquisition or a takeover. It’s most accurately described as an affiliation of our respective organizations that allows us to take advantage of one another’s strengths. And what it will mean to our communities is a local healthcare delivery system that will be more efficient and easier for patients to navigate.”

The agreement also calls for CMH to have a seat on the Albany Med board and someone from Albany Med will be on the CMH board.

A CMH spokesman said this week that the affiliation agreement would not affect plans to develop a new urgent care facility in the hamlet of Copake. “We are moving ahead as planned,” he said, addressing the Copake project, adding, “In terms of other services, over time we expect it to generate more local access to more specialty services.”

Mr. Cahalan called CMH “a strong organization on its own, but even the strongest players in the industry have recognized the advantages of partnership.”

Though the times Union, using state data, reported that CMH lost $550,000 in 2014, Mr. said that CMH’s financial performance last year was its strongest in the last five years, generating an overall positive net margin. He called that “an increasingly rare achievement for a stand-alone, not-for-profit health system in New York State.”

CMH has 40 care centers, including 17 primary care and 23 specialty care centers, throughout the region, mostly in Columbia and Greene counties. Columbia Memorial Hospital has 192 beds. It’s annual budget is $150 million.

More at www.columbiamemorialhealth.org.

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