News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.


Bassett Healthcare

Stressed By COVID? Bassett Adds Mental Health Hotline

Stressed By COVID?

Bassett Opens New

Mental Health Hotline


COOPERSTOWN – Bassett Healthcare wants everyone to know that they do not have to feel alone if they are feeling stress about the Coronavirus crisis.

The hospital network has now created a hotline for anyone who needs help handling the pressures and concerns of these unusual times.

“Many people, although they may have family members in the area and are staying in touch, still feel isolated and alone,” said Ann Marie Mills, the licensed clinical social worker at Bassett Healthcare Network who is leading the 10 person hotline team. “It is often useful to them to have a non-family member or friend to feel their worries and concerns.”

The hotline, 607-322-0157, is staffed 24/7 and is free of charge.

Bassett Does More Than 1,000 Telemedicine Visits, Plans More

Bassett Does More Than 1,000

Telemedicine Visits, Plans More

Patients Urged, Sign Up For MyBassett Service
In the past five days, Bassett Healthcare Network practitioners – like Dr. Travis Sklyar, a dermatologist in Cooperstown – have completed more than 1,000 telemedicine visits, spokesman Karen Huxtable Hooker announced a few minutes ago. Bassett intends to ramp up that capacity, she said, and is asking patients to enroll in MyBassett Health Connection – the link to telemedicine – by calling 607-547-5900 or, toll-free, 877-498-5715 that has been established for this purpose. Telemedicine allows staff to interface with patients, and also protects patients from infection, according to Dr. Steven Heneghan, chief clinical officer. (Bassett Healthcare photo)




Particulars Few, As Streck,

LeCates Cite Confidentiality


Drs. Streck, left, and LeCates at today’s press conference.

COOPERSTOWN – Bassett Healthcare Network has confirmed that its doctors have treated one person with the new coronavirus.

CDC images of coronavurus

Speaking at a press conference today at Bassett Hall, Bassett officials would not say which of the nearly 30 Bassett facilities the patient had been taken to or whether the patient was still inside the facility.

Bassett Hospital President Bill LeCates would say only that Bassett had treated a known case “in both inpatient and outpatient settings.”

It is Bassett policy not to speak about specific patients.

On Thursday, Governor Cuomo reported a confirmed cases in Herkimer and Delaware counties.

1 (607) 547-5555 Worried You May Have Coronavirius? Call Bassett Hotline

1 (607) 547-5555

Worried You May

Have Coronavirus?

Call Bassett Hotline

Dr. Bill Streck, left, and his coronavirus team brief the region’s press at 12:30 today. Others, from left, are Drs. Bill LeCates, Steve Heneghan, and Charles Hyman (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

CDC images of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – (607) 547-5555 is “your pathway to help.”

If you have coronavirus symptoms – fever, coughing, trouble breathing – don’t rush to the emergency room or your primary care doctor.

Call Bassett Hospital’s coronavirus hotline: (607) 547-5555.

You may be told you don’t need to worry.

You may be told you need to see a doctor or medical professional, and will be given an appointment and told what to do text.

You may be screened remotely, via telemedicine.  Perhaps you can be treated at home, to avoid coming in contact with other people.

But first, call (607) 547-5555




Holiday Market At Bassett


ANGEL TREE PROGRAM – Give the Gift of Christmas this holiday season. Adopt a family in need. Family sponsors should drop gifts at The Freeman’s Journal Office in Cooperstown or at The Salvation Army in Oneonta. Visit to learn how.

HOLIDAY MARKET – 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Find unique gifts at pop-up holiday market. Lobby, Bassett Healthcare Clinic. 1 Atwell Dr., Cooperstown.

As Helios, Catskill Hospice To Match Bassett Footprint



As Helios, Catskill Hospice

To Match Bassett Footprint

Catskill Area Hospice officially became Helios Care Tuesday, Oct. 8, as the board of directors unveiled the new name and logo. From left are Reginald Knight, Connie Jastremski (board chair), CEO Dan Ayres, Jeffrey Woeppel, Linda Evanczyk, the organization’s founder; Dr. Yoshiro Matsuo
and John Pontius. (Jennifer Hill/

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

ONEONTA – Changing Catskills Area Hospice & Palliative Care to Helios is about opening up a conversation.

“We found that the word ‘hospice’ was a barrier to conversation,” said CEO Dan Ayres. “When patients hear ‘hospice,’ they think they’re in their last days, not last month or year.  They don’t want to have the conversation.

“Now, we’re more likely to have a conversation, which means we can help the person get care early on.”

The rechristened Helios board unveiled the new name and logo at a Tuesday, Oct. 8 ceremony at Foothills attended by over 100 people, including Dr. Yoshiro Matsuo, the Oneonta oncologist credited with founding the local hospice.

The logo, a sunflower and a heliotrope, signified the care and guidance Helios intends to give patients on their “most difficult journey in life.”

The unveiling was for much more than name and logo, Ayres said in an interview the morning of the unveiling.

“The point is,” he said, “we are now positioning ourselves to provide more service than just hospice care that will help the patient stay healthier longer and at home.  And there will be a value to the system to pay us to do that.”

Helios’ plan is to expand Catskill Hospice from the three counties it covers now to the eight counties in the Bassett Network’s footprint.

It has negotiated a first-time agreements with Excellus/Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Utica to cover in-home care for an extended period, reducing patients’ more expensive visits to Primary Care, and much more expensive final care in Bassett’s ICUs.

Additionally, in 2021, Medicare is going to start paying for the capacity Helios is developing, Ayres said.

Expanding its potential patient base from 140,000 people in the three counties to 600,000 in eight counties will further reduce Helios’ costs, particularly overhead – administration, HR, tech and other centralized services.

Helios’ journey to the renaming ceremony began in 2017 when Ayres returned from West Virginia for his current job and observed a grim reality:  The hospice care industry was in steep decline, especially in New York State.

“Seventy percent of the state’s hospices were losing money and we are one of them,” Ayres said.  “We couldn’t keep doing the same thing the same way and expect to survive.”

The state ranked 49th in the country for hospice utilization, had the highest cost for Medicare, and had more people dying in ICUs than in any other state.

“At the same time, there is a tremendous demand for both hospice and palliative care here.  Sixty percent of the state population has chronic diseases and 40 percent have two or more of them,” Ayres said.   “And 23 percent of the population is 65 and older and enrolled in Medicare and Delaware is the fastest aging county in the state.”

But the average length of a hospice stay was 17 days.

So Catskill Hospice partnered with the Leatherstocking Collaborative Health Partners, a Bassett affiliate, on a year-long study giving 70 patients the service Helios intends to provide from here on out.

The results were astonishing, Ayres said.

“We had multiple health professionals do multiple acute care visits of the patients for a year and were able to reduce their acute-care utilization by 80 percent,” he  said.  “And we saw costs for their care – the most expensive type of care – go down 35 percent.”

The study ended in June, and the results has cause the new Helios to implement this new care and business model.

His staff, many of them new hires, go to patients’ homes to care for them, any day of the week instead of a Monday-Friday model.

Our nurses get great satisfaction in engaging one-on-one with patients and helping them in the most difficult times of their lives,” he said.  “They are computer literate and engaged in innovation – the right people at the right time.”

The change was accompanied by a big reduction in overhead.  Helios now has one office, on the River Street Extension, instead of six.  And health insurers are paying Helios to care for patients because treating patients at home means fewer hospital visits, the most expensive component of healthcare.

“We can monitor patients’ health at home better than if they rely on a hospital for care,” said Ayres.  “We help them take their medicine on time and check their blood pressure to see if they have hypertension, which can save a trip to the emergency room.”

Helios staff will also spot problems a hospital exam might not catch, such as food insecurity or burning wood to heat their homes.

“We can now give patients better care and a more seamless transition of care,” said Ayres.

$2.7M To Bolster Training Nurses In Primary Care

$2.7M To Bolster

Training Nurses

In Primary Care

Bassett Grant One Of Only 8 In U.S.;

Pilot Program Will Start At FoxCare

Dr. Gregory Rys

COOPERSTOWN – A $2.7 million start-up grant – one of only eight nationally – has been awarded to Bassett Hospital to train nurse practitioners to handle primary-care responsibilities in the eight-county network.

Bassett was one of eight institutions nationwide to receive the Health Resources and Services Administration grant.

The grant from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration will integrate the nurse-practitioner primary-care residency, to begin with, into primary-care practices at FoxCare Center in Oneonta.

At Bassett Hospital, ‘Virtual Command’ Center Activated


At Bassett Hospital, ‘Virtual

Command’ Center Activated

Dialysis Patients Brought In Today,

MDs, Staff On Alert, Generators Tested

COOPERSTOWN – Bassett Healthcare Network has established a “virtual command” that will be on alert throughout Storm Harper to minimize impact on patient care in all five of its hospitals – Cooperstown, Oneonta, O’Connor in Delhi, Cobleskill and Little Falls.

“We have been  working to assure we are fully staffed throughout the storm’s duration,” said Brinton Muller, Bassett director of emergency preparedness.  “This is occurring at each of the five hospitals … as well as community-based health centers. We are making arrangements for staff and practitioners who may find it difficult to travel because of the storm to have lodging nearby.”


‘Renaissance Men’

Vocal Ensemble Performance


CONCERT – 7:30 p.m. Boston’s premier vocal chamber ensemble “Renaissance Men” perform vocal music from all periods, by many composers. Tickets, $25 general admission. First United Methodist Church, 66 Chestnut St.,Oneonta. 607-433-7252 or visit

SQUARE DANCE – 7:30 p.m. Dance with friends at Doubleday Dancers Western Square Dance Clubs Fall All Plus Dance. Features Keith Harter as Plus caller, Jeanne Harter as Cuer. Admission, $5/person. Cooperstown Elementary School. 607-264-8128.

For 4th Year, Fox Hospital ‘LGBTQ’ Equality Leader

For 4th Year, Fox Hospital

‘LGBTQ’ Equality Leader

ONEONTA – Fox Hospital has been designated an “LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in its 11th edition of the Healthcare Equality Index.

A record 626 health care facilities actively participated in the HEI 2018 survey, with HRC Foundation proactively researching key policies at more than 900 additional non-participating hospitals. Of those included in the HEI, 418 earned a “LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader” designation.

Dr. Gadomski Honored By State For Work With Transgender Youth

State Honors Dr. Gadomski 

For Tending Transgender Youth

Anne Gadomski

COOPERSTOWN – Pediatrician Anne Gadomski, Bassett Research Institute director, was given the World AIDS Day New York Commissioner’s Special Recognition for establishing the first rural pediatric registry for transgender and gender nonconforming youth in New York State.

“There is not a lot of evidence to help inform clinical care of transgender and gender non-conforming youth, particularly for rural areas,” she said.

Mary Ann Vunk, 71, of Edmeston; Dr. Streck’s Assistant For 30 Years

Mary Ann Vunk, 71, of Edmeston;

Dr. Streck’s Assistant For 30 Years

Mary Ann Vunk and Dr. Streck on her retirement. (Contributed photo)

EDMESTON – Mary Ann Vunk, 71, assistant to former Bassett Healthcare CEO/President Bill Streck for many years, passed away peacefully Thursday July 6, 2017, at her home following an extended illness.

Mary Ann was born on Nov. 16, 1945 in Utica, the daughter of the late Donald F. and Kathryn Burns Vunk. In addition to her parents, Mary Ann was also pre-deceased by a brother Daniel Vunk in 1974, and a nephew Joseph Vunk in 2016.

Faso, Healthcare Advocate Differ On Course Of Reform

Faso, Healthcare Advocates

Differ On Course Of Reform

Family Planning of South Central New York Director Deb Marcus, right, expresses concerns about proposed Obamacare reforms to U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, at a meeting this afternoon in state Sen. Jim Seward’s Oneonta office. Others, from left, are county Rep. Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, the state Hospital Association’s Bill Streck, Antoinette Kuzminski, retired Bassett physician lobbying for a single-payer approach, Wayne Mellor of Fly Creek, Judy Fleischer of Oneonta, a former nurse and health-insurance broker, and Springbrook CEO Patricia Kennedy. (Ian Austin/

By IAN AUSTIN • Special to

Faso at this afternoon’s discussion.

ONEONTA – U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, heard concerns of key local players in the national healthcare debate this afternoon, and the two sides appeared to politely disagree on a future course of action.

“We have fundamental concerns that it” – the Obamacare revision being revived in Congress – “will not be an improvement over the current ACA.” said Bill Streck, retired Bassett Healthcare president, now director of innovation for the state Hospital Association (HANYS). “From our analysis, 200-700 thousand people would be at risk along with healthcare in our region.”




Patients, Economy Will Suffer, He Says

Dr. Vance Brown

COOPERSTOWN – Bassett Healthcare could lose $5 million a year in funding under the American Health Care Act that Congress is scheduled to act on this evening, according to Dr. Vance Brown, the system’s president/CEO.

Referring to a state Health Department analysis released yesterday, Dr. Brown said “that loss may be understated, as the analysis … was limited to hospital-based inpatient and outpatient services. It does not take into account Bassett’s non-hospital based regional clinics.”

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103