CMH calls governor’s proposed health care reforms ‘the right diagnosis, wrong prescription’

NORWICH – Taking an impending budget crisis into their own hands, officials at Chenango Memorial Hospital in Norwich last week invited local and state politicians in to see the potential effects firsthand.

“We wanted to give you a glimpse into where things might go,” said CMH CEO Dr. Drake Lamen as he addressed a boardroom full of staff and political figures last Thursday. Among those gathered were Assemblymen Cliff Crouch and Pete Lopez, City of Norwich Mayor Joe Maiurano, Board of Supervisors Chairman Dick Decker and a representative from the office of Sen. James Seward.

After some rough years in the late 1990s, when the financial picture was bleak for the local hospital, CMH has been able to maintain a narrow profit margin for about four years. But that may change if budget proposals made by Governor David Paterson come to fruition.

CMH’s Chief Financial Officer Bob McCarthy presented a sobering roundup of the hospital’s finances, and how proposed cuts would affect the local operation. “Since 2005, we’ve maintained a slim profit margin,” McCarthy said, “and in only one of those years have we exceeded the 4 percent generally considered necessary for reinvestment” in facilities and equipment. The hospital estimates a 1.5 percent profit margin for 2008.

But even that scant amount is in jeopardy in 2009 if Paterson’s proposals go through. “We’re looking at going from a $1.4 million net revenue down to $78,000,” McCarthy predicted. “The total impact would wipe out all the scratching and clawing we’ve been doing over the past five years with the stroke of a pen.”

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