The President’s Message, with photos, can be accessed at http://nyhq.org/oth/Page.asp?pageID=OTH000919.
The economic crisis has forced hospitals and health care facilities in Queens and throughout the city to stretch dollars further than ever before. On a federal level, there has been a lot of talk of health care relief, but only a modest portion of the funds for New York State from the health care aspects of the federal stimulus package reached the intended target—hospitals and health care providers. It seems that plans for health care reform are beginning to crystallize but remain in flux as partisan politics stymie progress.
These days, it feels like one hand of government understands what we need to build and protect access to health care, and that the other is ready to take it away before that support can even be realized. Over the past two weeks, we have spent a great deal of time with city and state officials. We know they are focused on how to provide health care with needed support, while achieving a delicate balance with other priorities such as education, employment stimulus and tax relief.
Through the initiative of Senator Toby Stavisky and Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, we hosted a forum for the Queens Delegation prior to their return for special sessions in Albany. We discussed how the steady stream of deep budget cuts over the past several years has placed high quality health care in Queens at risk. [See NYHQ Hosts Health Care Briefing for Queens Delegation, below].
Then, on September 25 Governor David Paterson held a press conference from our hospital to announce that Queens health care facilities will receive an infusion of $30 million from a total of $436 million to be disbursed state wide as part of the Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law of New York State (HEAL NY) program.
For the announcement, our auditorium was filled with elected officials, representatives from the other neighboring health care institutions, dozens of members of the press and our own employees. We heard Governor Paterson, State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, M.D. and members of the State Senate and Assembly announce that New York Hospital Queens will receive $4 million toward the much needed renovation and expansion of our emergency room which is now seeing more than 120,000 patients a year in a space designed to accommodate less than 50,000 [See The Pursuit of Grant Funding, below].
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall also spoke at the press conference and discussed the gap in access to care that exists in New York City, she demonstrated this with a statistic: Manhattan is a borough of 1.5 million people and there are 6.1 beds per 1,000 people. In Queens we have 2.3 million residents and only 1.6 beds per 1,000.
During the press conference, I was proud to hear speakers praise our hospital and our staff, and we are grateful for the grant. These monies will help us, but only represent about one-third of the total cost of our emergency room expansion. It cannot go unnoticed that as gracious as the governor was with his praise of our hospital, he clearly signaled more budget cuts to come. He vows to close the $2.1 billion gap in the current fiscal budget.
Health care is a big-ticket item in the state budget. However, patient care is not something that can be bargained with. High quality patient care requires funds to maintain facilities, technology and high quality work force. Unfortunately, three recent hospital closings in Queens are a clear example of what happens when health care funding is compromised.
Stephen S. Mills, F.A.C.H.E