Cortland Regional Medical Center intends to affiliate with Guthrie

From left, New York State Sen. James Seward, Cortland Regional Medical Center President and CEO Mark Webster, and Jeff Seibert, vice chair of the hospital's board of trustees announce the hospital's intentions to affiliate with Guthrie (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

CORTLAND, N.Y. - Cortland Regional Medical Center and Guthrie have announced the signing of a non-binding letter that outlines plans to move forward with an affiliation agreement.

Cortland Regional first announced its intentions to explore an affiliation with a larger healthcare system in October 2016. During a press conference Wednesday morning, Mark Webster, President and CEO of CRMC, announced that the hospital's board of trustees voted unanimously to have the hospital become a member of the Guthrie clinic, concluding a 20-month planning process. Webster said the hospital considered offers from other health care organizations.

The affiliation would likely not have been feasible without the aid of a debt forgiveness grant of $19.8 million from New York State. The grant, titled "stabilization to affiliation," allowed the hospital to remove its burdensome debt and become an attractive partner for another healthcare organization, Webster said.

Guthrie owns and operates Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Penn.; Guthrie Corning Hospital in Corning; Towanda Hospital in Towanda, Penn.; and the Guthrie Troy Community Hospital in Troy, N.Y.

Webster said Guthrie has committed to forego reductions at the hospital for the next 10 years, unless the hospital's board of trustees decides otherwise.

"There will be no unilateral decisions to reduce services," he said. "In fact, our hope, and I think Guthrie's intent, is to grow services here."

He also indicated that Guthrie has agreed to invest $41 million toward infrastructure improvements at the hospital, including a much-needed upgrade to the hospital's electronic medical records database.

"This is a very significant day for not only our local hospital, but for the Cortland community," Sen. James Seward said, who helped the hospital receive the nearly $20 million debt forgiveness grant. "The importance of our local hospital cannot be overstated."

With over 730 employees, Cortland Regional Medical Center is the largest private employer in Cortland County. It has operated as an independent, nonprofit facility for the past 126 years.

Webster said he expects the affiliation to be completed in the next year. The hospital will need regulatory approval from the New York State Department of Health.