Coalition creates working group in anticipation of Ellis-St. Peter’s merger forum

Ellis Hospital in Schenectady  in October 2020.

Ellis Hospital in Schenectady  in October 2020.

The Schenectady Coalition for Healthcare Access is creating a working group to prepare a list of community concerns and questions to discuss with Ellis Medicine and St. Peter’s regarding their merger.

Anyone in the community is welcome to sign up by May 19 to meet virtually two to three times via zoom between May 24 and June 1 in anticipation of a future forum with Ellis Hospital officials. A date for that forum has not been set. 

Ellis Hospital announced in October 2020 it would be merging with St. Peter’s Health Partners. 

Many residents are wary of the merger and want to know what services the hospital plans to continue providing.

Announcement of the working group comes as coalition member Michelle Ostrelich, who is also a county legislator, wrote a lengthy email questioning the lack of transparency around the merger.

“Despite previous assurances that merger negotiations between Ellis and Trinity/St. Peter’s were on pause, in reality THERE HAS BEEN NO PAUSE,” Ostrelich’s email states. “The community is now facing an expedited timeline and the real risk that our top priority — protecting health care from religious restrictions — is in serious jeopardy.”

Ostrelich said she has spoken to Ellis President Paul Milton who has acknowledged smaller agreements between Ellis and St. Peter’s are under discussion. 

The integration of Ellis Medicine and St. Peter’s Health Partners is a long and complex process that includes many steps and approvals along the way—in what may be a years-long process,” said Philip Schwartz, the spokesperson for Ellis. “In the immediate, we are exploring collaborative projects with St. Peter’s that would continue our long working relationship, and also aim to make a positive impact on our financial results and quality patient care. Details of these operational changes are still being explored.”

Ostrelich said Ellis is working on a physician’s agreement within the next few months related to hiring and keeping physicians. However, Ostrelich said such an agreement does not require state Department of Health oversight.

“And, Ellis has no intention of negotiating our priorities into the physician agreement: freedom from religious restrictions, reducing inequities, and providing for oversight and enforcement,” What does all of this mean? A giant step toward partnership will happen without transparency or involvement by the DOH and without fully negotiating the community’s needs and priorities.”

The coalition wants to ensure Trinity Health–the 41 hospital Catholic Healthcare system that controls St. Peter’s –provides freedom from religious restrictions, reduces inequities, and creates an avenue for enforcement and oversight.

Ostrelich said Ellis is also working on a management agreement to have Trinity take over the business operations of the hospital a year from now. That agreement would need approval by the state Department of Health. 

However, the agreement raises concerns over equity and pension plans, Ostrelich said. Trinity Health is one of the most aggressive bill collectors, continuing to litigate during the coronavirus pandemic to get payment. 

“For the sake of our community, Ellis must negotiate terms in the Management Agreement to protect our families from exacerbating healthcare-related inequities,” Ostrelich said. 

She also said the hospital needs to be transparent about how it will handle pension plans. 

Schwartz said Ellis is continuing to listen to the community.

Lastly, we want to emphasize that the intent of this proposed partnership is to enhance the availability of high-quality health care services in the Capital Region,” Schwartz said. “In the end, we are confident the community will see both improved care and expanded access to care as a result of this partnership.”

To be a part of the working group

Email Michelle Ostrelich by May 19 at [email protected] to join

Don’t want to join but have questions for Ellis? 

Email Ostrelich at [email protected]

Categories: News, Schenectady County

Leave a Reply