By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
In a victory for public hospitals, New York City Hospitals Employees Local 420 President Carmen Charles, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres secured an additional $620 million from FEMA to reimburse NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) for COVID-19 care during the pandemic.
“New York City’s public hospitals made up the foundation of the City’s response to COVID-19. The doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and everyone involved in the H+H system fought day and night to save the lives of New Yorkers,” said Schumer on Sept. 15 at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. “Hospitals expanded to full capacity, taking on a surge in patients, and billions in expenses were incurred for their response to the pandemic. I delivered historic levels of funding for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund and I’m happy to announce that FEMA heeded our call to swiftly reimburse New York’s public hospitals.”
Health+Hospitals will receive a total of $880 million from FEMA for treating COVID-19 patients in 2020. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reimbursed NYC H+H $260 million earlier this year. H+H informed FEMA that it intends to ask for additional funds totaling $1 billion as reimbursement for COVID care.
“New York City was the earliest epicenter of the coronavirus. NYC Health+Hospitals was hit the hardest because they serve the most vulnerable among us,” said Torres. The deadly COVID-19 virus disproportionately affected communities of color. To date more than 34,000 New York City residents died from COVID-19, or 63% of the total COVID-19 deaths in New York State.
“The healthcare heroes of Health+Hospitals, the most essential of the essential workers are the heartbeat of New York City,” Torres said. “We are proud to honor Health+Hospitals not only with words, but by securing this crucial reimbursement of over $600 million.”
The FEMA reimbursement to NYC H+H is for staffing, equipment and patient care. The emergency aid may help stabilize the cash-strapped public hospital system, the largest in the nation. H+H treats patients regardless of their ability to pay.
“The hardworking frontline staff of Health+Hospitals, especially my members who make up the bulk of H+H employees, can now take a moment to breathe easy,” said Charles. “Thanks to my dear friend, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, the workers can focus on preparing for the anticipated Fall surge in COVID 19 cases. The FEMA reimbursement will ensure that H+H is adequately staffed and properly equipped with the necessary PPE. The efforts of Senator Schumer and Congress Member Torres in getting FEMA to honor its commitment to NYC Health+Hospitals show the quality of leadership needed to get us through this pandemic.”