Jus­tice needed for St. Clare’s re­tirees

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - OPINION -

By Se­na­tor Jim Tedisco

The Hol­i­day Sea­son is upon us. But it’s go­ing to be very tough to cel­e­brate Christ­mas and the hol­i­days, when so many re­tirees of the for­mer St. Clare’s Hos­pi­tal are in dan­ger of los­ing ev­ery­thing be­cause the re­tire­ment sav­ings they had long counted on has ei­ther evap­o­rated or sig­nif­i­cantly di­min­ished.

Imag­ine you worked hard for many years with the as­sump­tion that your pen­sion would be there for you at re­tire­ment. Now imag­ine, ac­tu­ally be­ing re­tired and liv­ing off your pen­sion and then sud­denly be­ing given three weeks’ no­tice that your re­tire­ment plan was ei­ther go­ing to be slashed or out­right elim­i­nated.

That fright­en­ing sce­nario is a liv­ing night­mare for more than 1,100 for­mer ded­i­cated, com­pas­sion­ate health care pro­fes­sion­als of the now closed St. Clare’s Hos­pi­tal in Sch­enec­tady.

That’s an exclusive club that you would not want to be a mem­ber of.

These in­di­vid­u­als, many of whom I rep­re­sent in the 49th Se­nate District, live across the Cap­i­tal Re­gion, in­clud­ing in Saratoga County.

St. Clare’s Hos­pi­tal was closed a decade ago by a re­quire­ment of the state’s Berger Com­mis­sion in its mis­sion to right-size New York’s health care fa­cil­i­ties, and its op­er­a­tions were ab­sorbed by El­lis Medicine.

At the time, the state paid $58.7 mil­lion to cover tran­si­tion costs, in­clud­ing $28 mil­lion to cover the an­tic­i­pated needs of the St. Clare’s Pen­sion Fund. Un­for­tu­nately, for rea­sons not yet fully iden­ti­fied, that was not enough to cover the fund’s pen­sion costs. Since fed­eral law per­mits a re­li­gious ex­emp­tion, the St. Clare’s pen­sion fund has no ben­e­fit guar­an­tee in­sur­ance.

Ever since this pen­sion fi­asco came to light late last year, I have been an out­spo­ken voice call­ing on the Gov­er­nor, At­tor­ney General, state Comptrolle­r, and state Depart­ment of Health to fully in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened to the St. Clare’s Pen­sion Fund. I am spon­sor­ing bi-par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion with Assem­bly­man An­gelo Santabar­bara (D-Rot­ter­dam) that would re­quire the Depart­ment of State to de­lay the is­suance of a Cer­tifi­cate of Dis­so­lu­tion for the St. Clare’s Cor­po­ra­tion un­til the Depart­ment of Health, At­tor­ney General or Comptrolle­r can con­duct an investigat­ion and/or au­dit to as­cer­tain whether or not there were any im­pro­pri­eties that led to clo­sure of the St. Clare’s Pen­sion Fund.

The Comptrolle­r replied to my request for in­ter­ven­tion that it’s not un­der his of­fice’s purview.

Af­ter the St. Clare’s Pen­sion Fund Board of Trus­tees pe­ti­tioned the court to dis­solve and wash their hands of the plight of the re­tirees, the At­tor­ney General got in­volved as a pro-forma mat­ter, as one of AG’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is to re­view the dis­so­lu­tion of non-prof­its.

Mean­while, the last time anyone pub­licly asked our Gov­er­nor about the St. Clare’s re­tirees, he had no idea what the re­porter was talk­ing about.

A source who wishes to re­main anony­mous has given me a star­tling doc­u­ment from the hos­pi­tal con­sol­i­da­tion ap­pli­ca­tion from July 2007 that says the “St. Clare’s Hos­pi­tal de­fined ben­e­fit plan is un­der­funded by $47 mil­lion as of De­cem­ber 31, 2006,” and not the $28 mil­lion orig­i­nally al­lo­cated in the con­sol­i­da­tion agree­ment.

The doc­u­ment raises sig­nif­i­cant new ques­tions about what hap­pened to the money that was meant to go to the re­tire­ments of more than 1,100 for­mer ded­i­cated health care pro­fes­sion­als of the now closed St. Clare’s Hos­pi­tal.

I have joined with Mary Hartshorne and Robert Bradley, Co-Chairs of the St. Clare’s Pen­sion Re­cov­ery Al­liance, to share this doc­u­men­ta­tion with the At­tor­ney General, and have asked that she in­clude in her on­go­ing investigat­ion into the dis­so­lu­tion of the Pen­sion Fund an ex­am­i­na­tion of why there was an agree­ment for the state to only pro­vide $28 mil­lion in tax­payer funds to­ward shoring up the St. Clare’s Pen­sion Fund af­ter all par­ties in­volved were made aware that up to $47 mil­lion was needed.

This eye-open­ing doc­u­ment in­di­cates that as far back as 2007, there was a warn­ing that the Pen­sion Fund was un­der­funded by $47 mil­lion, yet a year later it only re­ceived $28 mil­lion to shore it up.

Did an­other ac­tu­ar­ial eval­u­a­tion take place? Who did the eval­u­a­tion? What were the find­ings of the eval­u­a­tion?

Why is there a $19 mil­lion dis­crep­ancy be­tween the 2006 ac­tu­ar­ial anal­y­sis and the $28 mil­lion the state paid to the Pen­sion Fund?

It seems re­mark­able that the ap­pli­ca­tion saw a Pen­sion Fund deficit of $47 mil­lion in 2006 but the state only ended up sup­port­ing the Pen­sion Fund deficit with $28 mil­lion in 2008.

The ded­i­cated health care pro­fes­sion­als who pro­vided com­pas­sion­ate care at the for­mer St. Clare’s Hos­pi­tal de­serve jus­tice and a full investigat­ion by the state to de­ter­mine what hap­pened to the pen­sion they worked so hard for and help find­ing a way to make them whole.

Se­na­tor Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-REF-Glenville) rep­re­sents the 49th State Se­nate District which in­cludes parts of Saratoga, Sch­enec­tady and Herkimer Coun­ties and all of Ful­ton and Hamil­ton Coun­ties

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