By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
At a noon press conference at Harlem Hospital on Nov. 15, a coalition of community leaders, working men and women, and elected leaders called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that would give safety-net hospitals a fairer share of funds to care for the neediest New Yorkers.
“The money should follow the patient,” said Barbara Edmonds, director of field operations for DC 37. “All it takes is for Governor Cuomo to sign this bill and we’ll be that much closer to improving health care for everyone in our state — regardless of whether they live in urban or rural communities.”
Last spring, the New York State Assembly and Senate unanimously passed the enhanced safety-net hospital bill (A9476A/S.6948-A). The bill defines safety-net hospitals and creates a chance for a more equitable funding formula for public hospitals from Buffalo to Brooklyn to get a fairer share of state and federal Medicaid funding.
Currently private hospitals take the lion’s share of these funds.
“NYU Langone gets $50 more per patient than Bellevue Hospital does, but it hardly treats the poor,” said Judy Wessler, a longtime health-care advocate and former director of the Commission on the Public Health System.
Although NYC Health + Hospitals treat 60 percent of the state’s uninsured, poor and elderly, it is guaranteed just 3 percent of the $3.5 billion Albany allocates yearly to the charity care fund, which covers the cost of care for the uninsured.
DC 37 spearheaded a grassroots campaign collecting over 15,000 signatures on a petition urging Gov. Cuomo to pass the safety-net hospital bill. The union made this a hot topic on its radio and television shows and social media outlets.
Locals 1549, 371, 420, 768, 1407, and 2627, whose members are H+H employees, stand with the New York State Nurses Association, the Doctors Council, CWA Local 1180, the Commission on the Public Health System and the Committee of Interns and Residents and the New York Immigration Coalition. Public Advocate Leticia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and other city, state and community leaders support the bill as well.
“We are asking the governor to stand with us–just like we stood with him when he was running for office,” Local 299 President Jackie Rowe-Adams, a Harlem advocate, said. The crowd of healthcare workers, doctors, nurses and activists chanted, “Governor Cuomo, sign the bill!”