March 23, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Time is ticking down on 28 financially distressed hospitals around the state in need of an immediate $290 million cash infusion to make payroll and satisfy vendors.
Until now, the troubled hospitals, stretching from Brooklyn to Buffalo, have been floating on a Federal Medicaid wavier. But those Interim Access Assurance Funds expire at the end of the month and the State Legislature has yet to restore monies Governor Cuomo budgeted to cover the shortfall.
“There are hospitals who have said they cannot make payroll in two weeks if they do not continue to get this money,” says Helen Schaub, 1199SEIU NYS director of policy and legislation.
Disruption of critical care services could impact over two million New Yorkers and cost 25,000 jobs, according to the coalition of community activists and 1199SEIU and New York Nurses Association [NYSNA] members fighting to keep the hospitals open.
Hospitals serving largely low-come communities like Interfaith Medical Center in Central Brooklyn are struggling to survive as the state attempts to reduce beds and revamp health delivery systems in accordance with the Affordable Health Care Act.
Ultimately, coalition members say that the shift to wellness and preventative medicine will be positive, but more has to be done to ensure that struggling hospitals survive the chaotic and complex transition process.
“We want to make it clear to both the Assembly and the Senate that if they aren't fully funding the governor's request, there are hospitals in immediate danger,” Schaub says.
The situation at Interfaith Medical Center, where advocates are seeking to oust the current management team for allegedly mishandling taxpayer dollars during the hospital’s 2012 bankruptcy case, is even more problematic.
Professor Roger Green, director the Dubois Center for Public Policy and chair of the Coalition to Transform Interfaith Hospital, says that the overall issue of health justice isn’t being discussed, while poor communities continue to suffer at the hands of plutocratic “close out artists” who squeeze money out of ailing hospitals before shutting them down.
“Hospitals are failing in part because we have a crisis in our democracy,” Green says. “There used to be a time when there was more of an opportunity for participatory democracy with the boards in creating the vision plan.”
Despite the dire stakes, hospital advocates say they have been getting positive signals from the State Department of Health.
And late week, members of the Coalition to Protect Interfaith Medical Center rallied in front of CFO Robert Mariani home in White Plains calling for his exit, along with temporary operator Melanie Cyganowski and CEO Steve Korf.