October 24, 2021

Hospital affiliation is official

Transition to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center now compelete

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center Nurse Anesthetist Jerry Safro-Darko of Binghamton talks about the hospital’s merger Thursday in Cortland.

In a simultaneous motion, dozens of Cortland’s hospital employees held up their new white, purple and gold name tag, which now reads Guthrie Cortland Medical Center.

The moment Thursday marked the completion of the affiliation between the Guthrie Medical Group and the Cortland Regional Medical Center, which includes a $100 million investment by Guthrie over five years and various changes over time.

The most immediate of those changes include a new sign by the building entrance — with the new Guthrie Cortland Medical Center name — and new name tags for more than 1,300 full and parttime employees.

“I’m most excited about the new badges, I love the colors,” Danielle Minoia, a nurse anesthetist at the Cortland hospital, said with a chuckle.

In general, Minoia, who’s worked at the hospital since June, said she thinks the affiliation is great for the hospital and the area. “I think it’ll bring a lot of opportunities for patients and surgeons,” she said.

While the hospital already has many great surgeons, Minoia said she likes that the affiliation may allow the hospital to perform more kinds of surgeries.

Jerry Sarfo-Darko, also a nurse anesthetist, said the affiliation allows for increased buying power. He said the ability to have new options and buy new kinds of equipment is “a big thing.”

Minoia said she was not too concerned about the affiliation when it was first announced, because Sayre, Pennsylvania-based Guthrie has a good reputation. However, when Guthrie leaders came to the Cortland hospital and told employees Guthrie is partnering with Cortland, not taking it over, worries were relieved.

For the past couple of days, Guthrie executives spent about nine hours at the Cortland hospital, speaking with employees about the affiliation, said Molly Lane, marketing communications manager for the Cortland hospital.

“They made sure they felt welcomed,” Lane said.

In front of dozens of Cortland hospital employees during a news conference about the affiliation completion Thursday, Guthrie CEO Joseph Scopelliti reiterated that Guthrie is not looking to send Cortland patients to Sayre. Its goal is to help the Cortland hospital better provide for the needs of the community.

“Now we have to deliver,” Scopelliti said. “And people are expecting us to deliver.”

Cortland hospital President Mark Webster said the affiliation will bring more investment, more services, more providers and more jobs.

Benefits of the affiliation also include:

• $41 million in infrastructure and electronic records upgrades over five years.
• No cuts in services for at least 10 years, without both organizations’ approval.
• Local control of the 162-bed hospital and 80-bed nursing facility.
• Access to some of the most advanced health care in the world — through an affiliation with the Mayo Clinic.

“Being a part of the Mayo system will elevate us,” said Tammy Aiken, director of critical care and emergency services at the Cortland hospital. “It’s going to be the driver of this (affiliation).”

She added the new connection will bring the hospital into the 21st century. Instead of doing certain things one way, because that’s how it’s always been done, she said the hospital will have access to evidence-based practices.

This is the second hospital affiliation she has been through. So far, it’s been much more of a positive experience.

She was at a hospital, similar in size to Cortland, which was acquired by a larger organization and the culture of the two did not match, she said.

“It created a lot of fear and anxiety,” she said. “That’s not the feeling at all now.”

The process was open, she said. Her staff knew just as much as she and the president of the hospital did. “We had a huge door open to us,” she said.

One impending change that has caused some hesitation among workers is the new dress code. Departments will have their own color attire.

The new attire has been a big question among employees, Lane said, but Guthrie brought samples of what the cloths look like to the hospital, which calmed some nerves.

“It is all about patient experience and who is caring for them,” Lane said. “It is really important to be able to identify the workers.”

The clothing change is not immediate, though. Employees have time to look through the options.

Many changes will be gradual, particularly with what new services will be provided at the hospital. Scopelliti said Guthrie wants to work with the community to identify what its needs are.

One new addition to the hospital that has been beneficial is a workplace digital application that connects every employee in the Guthrie system, in a program similar to Facebook.

Employees can communicate with each, learn new things about each other, but also learn about anything new going on in health care, Lane said.

“Cortland hasn’t really had anything like that,” Lane said. It allows employees to easily communicate with the leadership of the hospital, too. If someone has a question, Webster can answer it immediately, Lane said.

To Dr. Chris Moheimani, a surgeon who has worked at the hospital for about 20 years, the biggest benefit of the affiliation is its sense of security.

“You’re not wondering in five years time if a hospital will be here,” he said, his new badge hanging around his neck. “It’ll be here.”