News of Otsego County

Bassett Healthcare

Visitors Allowed To Visit Patients


Visitors Allowed

To Visit Patients

COOPERSTOWN – Beginning today, Bassett Healthcare Network is resuming partial visitation for inpatients at its hospitals: Bassett in Cooperstown, Fox in Oneonta, Cobleskill Regional, Little Falls and O’Connor in Delhi.

Visitation hours are limited to 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. weekdays. On weekends, hours will be 1-5 p.m.  One visitor at a time will be allowed, with a maximum of two patients a day — four hours total per patient.

Seward To Join Bassett Network In Liaison Role


Seward To Join

Bassett Network

In Liaison Role

Jim Seward

COOPERSTOWN – Retired state senator Jim Seward, R-Milford, has agreed to join Bassett Healthcare Network in an advisory capacity as a strategic affairs liaison, Network President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim announced this morning.

“The former senator has been a public servant of our area for decades and has an intimate knowledge of the communities served by Bassett,” Ibrahim said in an email to the Network community.

Bassett Schedules Vaccination Clinic Saturday At Clark


Bassett Schedules

Vaccination Clinic

Saturday At Clark

In a noontime press briefing convened by Bassett President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim, top, the network’s pharmacy director, Kelly Rudd, left, announced Bassett Healthcare Network will provide vaccinations to the public at its first public clinic 8 a.m.-1 p.m. this Saturday at the Clark Sports Center, Cooperstown.  Register later this afternoon by clicking here.  “Given the limited supply of vaccine, we know appointments will for the community clinic will fill up immediately,” Rudd said.  “Individuals must register through the state’s COVID-19 vaccination portal, using the ‘Am I eligible’ app, and we anticipate that a link to the state’s portal will be live later this afternoon.”  (Jim Kevlin/

Fox Ramping Up Vaccination Rate, Spokesman Says

Fox Ramping Up

Vaccination Rate,

Spokesman Says

More Than 50 Percent Of Staff

Inoculated, Hospital Reports


ONEONTA – After being called out by Governor Cuomo on Monday, Fox Hospital and the Tri-Town Campus in Sidney have ramped up their rate of vaccinations.

On Monday, Cuomo alleged that the hospital had only used 18 percent of their COVID-19 vaccine allotment. Bassett spokeswoman Karen Huxtable-Hooker said the total was actually 30 percent at the time of the press conference.

Fox spokesman Gabrielle Argo updated these figures, reporting that 50 percent of the Fox staff has been vaccinated and 100 percent of the Tri-Town Campus staff had been vaccinated as of 2 p.m. today.

28 COVID Cases Reported Saturday, Sunday

28 COVID-19 Cases

Surface On Weekend

CDC image of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – COVID-19 numbers continue to climb in the county, with 28 cases reported over the weekend, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health Director.

11 cases were reported Saturday, Nov. 21 and 17 were reported today, Bond noted in her daily press release. According to the NY Forward Dashboard, Otsego County currently has a 1.1 percent average positivity rate, with 600 people tested yesterday.

EDITORIAL: Turmoil At Bassett, But It’s Good Turmoil. And It Can’t Be Avoided


Turmoil At Bassett,

But It’s Good Turmoil.

And It Can’t Be Avoided

Intriguing news is filtering out of the vicinity of One Atwell Road, Cooperstown, as Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, new Bassett Healthcare Network president/CEO, takes hold.

Some people are leaving, voluntarily or not, which is common in this kind of transition. But there’s a particularly intriguing addition: A tech guy, Michael Thompson, VP/systems improvement, recruited from Integris, Ibrahim’s former employer, based in Oklahoma City.

Last week’s announcement described his job this way: “Michael will partner with administrative and medical staff leadership to develop and implement a strategic-performance improvement plan for all hospitals across the Bassett Healthcare Network.”

That dovetails with Dr. Ibrahim’s vision, as he described it in an introductory interview on his arrival in mid-July.

Integris’ nine hospitals were silos, vertically organized – president, vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, department heads, etc. His idea was to organize hospitals by specialties – radiologists, cardiac specialists, dermatologists, etc. – horizontally.

Aggregating the power of expertise: You can see how effective that would be, at Integris, sure, but also at Bassett, in concentrating the expertise scattered between Cooperstown, Fox in Oneonta, O’Connor in Delhi, Cobleskill Regional Hospital, Little Falls, and the Bassett Network’s dozens of other facilities.

At Integris, Ibrahim told the Daily Oklahoman a year ago, “Our strategy to becoming one of the nation’s five top medical systems starts with building an infrastructure around data analytics. Our central theme remains quality and patient safety, around which we track many matrices.”

Data, matrices (measurements), quality. It’s going to be exacting, intense. At Integris, “teams systemwide meet every morning to gather, quickly identify and rectify issues, and rally around providing the best patient care possible,” the Oklahoman reported.

To do this, Ibrahim needs people around him to effectively implement; in other words, to get the
right things done right, and quickly.

To do this, he needs his own team.

It seems, that’s where we’re heading.

Departures so far include Dr. Steven Heneghan, the Network’s chief medical officer, announced a month ago. Two or three other key players – unannounced, but you’d know them – as of last Friday. It’s being said top Bassett executives who want to remain in their positions must reapply, but that couldn’t be immediately confirmed this week.

Can it be helped? Probably not, nor should it be.

The former Oneonta mayor, Dick Miller, served on the Fox board, and used to say it’s generally accepted that, for a modern hospital system to succeed, it has to draw on a population of 1.2 million; Bassett’s eight counties add up to 600,000.

It should go without saying, but can’t be said enough: For the good of Otsego County, in particular, it’s important that Bassett – a font of jobs and brainpower, a facility essential to quality economic development – orbits around Cooperstown, rather than Utica, Albany, Binghamton or, heavens, Sayre. Pa. That means adding to and further developing exceptional expertise already in house –
obviously, there’s never enough of that – attracting more patients, and continuing to expand as
opportunities arise.

In his departing interview, Dr. Bill Streck, Ibrahim’s predecessor, who retired in 2014 but was brought back in 2018 when his successor resigned, was asked what went wrong in the interim.

Nothing specific, Streck said, just a loss of “institutional momen-tum.” That, he continued, can be a fatal sin.

Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, 39, has brains, a successful track record, youthful energy, and a vision of where we should go. He sold that vision to the Bassett board, which was looking for a future. He needs

HIS team to take him there, and us. That’s going to take some short-term pain. And that’s OK.

Final quote from the Oklahoman:  “I think Integris” – substitute Bassett – “can absolutely compete with the likes of the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic.”

Without ambitious goals, we aren’t going to get there, or anywhere. Ibrahim needs his team’s support, and everyone’s, to get there.

Fox Hospital President Now Bassett COO

Fox Hospital President

Now Bassett COO Too

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Jeff Joyner

ONEONTA – As Fox Hospital president, Jeff Joyner, new COO of the Bassett Healthcare Network, brings people together.

“Jeff knows that things get done when you work with other people,” said Laurie Zimniewicz, president of the Fox Hospital Board. “And he realized that Fox Hospital, standing alone, wasn’t going to be effective unless the network was effective.”

Joyner, who succeeded longtime Fox Hospital President John Remillard, who retired in 2015, has been promoted to network senior vice president/chief operating officer, a key player in new Network President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim’s executive team.

The other three key appointments are:

• Michael Thompson, vice president/systems improvement. Most recently, he was vice president/provider service for Integris, Oklahoma City, where Ibrahim was executive vice president and chief physician executive before his appointment here May 20.

• Lisa Betrus, as senior vice president/chief strategy and transformation officer. Since 1998, she has been CEO/administrator of Valley Health & Valley Residential Services, Herkimer, taking on the extra role of network vice president for continuum of care in 2017.

• Cailin Purcell, as vice president/chief of staff. With 10 years at Bassett, she was most recently Department of Surgery senior director, overseeing leadership of Women’s Health, Anesthesia and Perioperative Services.

Joyner came St. Joseph’s Healthcare in New Jersey, where he was system vice president of operations. In 2009-13, he was vice president of professional services at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D..C, part of Johns Hopkins. In 2003-09, he was vice president of patient support services at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md.

In 1993-97, he served two terms in the Main State Legislature. He holds a bachelors in business administration from the University of Maine at Farmington and a master of health administration from the University of New Hampshire.

As Fox president, Joyner has been reducing redundancy of services. “Two years ago, we had FoxNow at FoxCare and Bassett Convenient Care, three miles down the road from each other,” he said. “They were two competing practices, so we consolidated them, and now we have a much better product for the community.”

In fall 2018, Fox was awarded an “A” from The Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Grade, placing the organization among the top facilities nationwide for patient safety excellence.

He continued his outreach, and in 2018, the network acquired Tri-Town in Sidney.

“By continuing to create more efficiency with services in both the Oneonta and Sidney regions, Fox and the greater Bassett Healthcare Network are in a strong position to continue providing high-quality care in an ever-changing health care environment,” he said.

“He put two of the former board members on the Fox Board,” said Zimniewicz. “He brings people together who can make a difference.”

And those connections came in handy as the COVID-19 pandemic bore down on the county. “We have come together to deal with the pandemic head-on,” he said “With everything at SUNY, our colleagues in Cobleskill and Cooperstown reached out to ask what they could provide. We’re not an
island, we’re part of a team.”

And he didn’t leave his staff out of the renovations. When the patient dining room
was expanded, the employee dining room was also modernized, complete with a “mini arcade” in the lounge to entertain staff on breaks.

“One of the greatest attributes of Fox Hospital is the people who work here,” he said. “I’ve seen first-hand the care they provide, and I get letters telling me about what a good job
we’ve done.”

Bassett Uses Parking Lot As Patients Return

Bassett Uses Parking Lot

As Patients Flood Back In

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

COOPERSTOWN – Your car is the new waiting room, said Dr. Steven Heneghan, Bassett Healthcare’s chief clinical officer.

“Before you come in, someone will call you the day before and screen for symptoms, travel, et cetera,” he said. “The day of, you’ll be asked to wait in your car until staff calls you in. You’ll get your temperature taken, then be escorted to an exam room.”

With COVID-19 cases dwindling – Heneghan reports that only one person remains hospitalized and there have been no new hospitalizations in seven weeks – Bassett Hospital has reopened for “85 percent” of procedures, including elective surgeries.

“There are very few things we aren’t doing, and everything we’re doing is with higher safety precautions,”
he said.

Having people wait in their cars is just one way that Bassett is continuing to minimize exposure to COVID-19. “It’s about creating these basic safety points,” he said. “That way, we minimize congestion.”

However, for those who were dropped off or used public transportation, waiting rooms are still available, at a lower capacity. “Some of the chairs are partitioned off,” said Heneghan. “We want everyone to feel safe and know that if they’re sitting in our waiting room, they’re not sitting next to someone.”

Every visitor to any Bassett Healthcare clinic must wear a mask and have their temperature taken at the door, as well as answer a series of questions about symptoms and travel.

“We try to have enough people on staff so that no one has to wait in line,” he said. “But at some times, like 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., there are more people waiting for appointments, so we have markers on the floor to make sure people are spread out.”

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.

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