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      Upstate and Community hospitals make merger official

      Local officials and residents take part in the merger announcement Thursday morning / photo: Jessica Cain

      It's a new era of health care in Central New York as Community General Hospital, which has been providing medical services in Syracuse for nearly half a century, is merging with the larger Upstate University Hospital.

      SUNY Upstate Medical University officially marked its takeover of Community General Hospital in the Town of Onondaga Thursday morning. In a ceremony in front of the main entrance to Community General, officials from the now merged facilities unveiled new signs and raised a flag to mark the occasion.

      Community General Hospital will be renamed Upstate University Hospital at Community General. Upstate Medical University, a teaching hospital, will own and operate the two hospitals.

      The institutions will operate as one hospital with two campuses. The merger makes Upstate University Hospital Syracuse's largest hospital with 718 licensed beds.

      "I can tell you the mood this morning in the hospital is really very very positive, said Upstate CEO John McCabe. The employees are happy to be here, excited about this opportunity, and they understand this is now part of a bigger family, a bigger system."

      Tom Quinn, former CEO of Community General and new Senior Vice President of Upstate University Hospital, agreed with McCabe. "I kind of feel that this is the capstone of a career. We know this has been the right thing to do in this town for years. Many hospitals, our own included, have tried to consolidate in other ways. We've finally succeeded."

      McCabe says not everything will be exactly the same as it was for Community General workers, but says they have not lost any of their paid time off, vacation leave, or time or money they've put into their pension. He adds that salaries are very similar to what they are before, and many of the benefits or as good or better for Community employees.

      Officials say Community patients shouldn't see a big difference in their services in the short term. It will still be the same facility, doctors, and nurses, just under a different name. Down the line, McCabe says he expects to build services at Community General, and that will require more staff.

      "We're planning to have a pediatric urgent care facility, associated with the emergency department, so after hours for children. Another example we have in the works is a long-term epilepsy monitoring program."

      Quinn added "They've enhanced the hospital service, They've added depth to the cardiology, they're bringing in neurology. We have a new residence in the OB-GYN service.

      Community General opened 48 years ago on a hill overlooking Syracuse just south of the city limits. It was the first hospital in Syracuse with central air conditioning and a specially-designed intensive care unit.

      Hospital officials say the merger will save 900 health care jobs and provides Upstate with needed room for growth. There were 950 jobs at Community before the merger, and officials say that has been reduced to approximately 900.

      So in light of the official announcement of the merger, do you think this is a good step for the community? Or do you fear that it will lead to a decline in quality of medical service? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

      Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.