March 1, 2016

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Legislators voice support for SUNY hospitals, HSCs

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The cash-strapped SUNY hospitals, which have been on financial life support for years, got strong pledges of support from lawmakers March 1 during UUP’s advocacy day for the hospitals and health sciences centers.

“I don’t see any reason why I can’t support the restoration to the $128 million,” said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), chair of the Assembly Social Services Committee, as he met with a UUP delegation. That delegation included Rowena Blackman-Stroud, UUP statewide treasurer and Downstate Medical Center Chapter president; Carol Gizzi, Stony Brook HSC Chapter president; and Downstate’s Abe Gerecht, Pervez Mirza and Alithia Alleyne. Above, Blackman-Stroud presses Hevesi to support SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Hevesi’s support is widely echoed in the Assembly. A month ago, eight upstate Assembly members signed a letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie asking that SUNY Upstate Medical University receive strong consideration in the budget negotiations.

Among the specific requests by the upstate Assembly members:

    • Restore the governor’s proposed $18.6 million cut to the hospitals’ subsidy; and
    • Support the executive proposal’s capital projects plans for the hospitals, which includes $100 million at Upstate and Stony Brook HSC; $75 million that would aid SUNY Upstate’s $150 million ambulatory care site proposal; and $200 million in SUNY systemwide general capital funding in the upcoming budget.

    These requests closely match UUP’s legislative priorities for SUNY’s state-operated hospitals and HSCs. UUP seeks not only to restore the governor’s proposed $18.6 million cut to the state hospital/HSC subsidy, but is asking also for an additional $40 million statewide, to bring the subsidy back to the 2010 level of $128 million.

    UUP is calling for the development of ambulatory care centers at SUNY Downstate; the creation of the Buffalo Health Care Teaching Fellows program, which would create a system of clinical medical instructors dedicated to training future physicians in community-based outpatient care; and the return of delinquent fees to the SUNY hospitals, instead of allowing these payments to continue going into the state’s general fund.

    UUP also continues to push for a full, reasonable Maintenance of Effort, which would support the operating costs at the hospitals and HSCs as well as the SUNY colleges and universities.

    Vital care centers

    Throughout the day, UUP members reminded lawmakers that the hospitals do not only provide critical medical care in underserved areas, but thousands of jobs.

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    "We’re the largest employer in Central New York,” Upstate Medical University Chapter President Mike Lyon, second from left, said in a meeting at the office of Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-Staten Island). “We have 9,000 employees.”

    Buffalo Center Chapter President Tom Tucker, second from right, added that the hospitals would benefit from a Maintenance of Effort provision, which passed both houses of the Legislature nearly unanimously last year, but which Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed in December.

    Without the MOE, Tucker noted, hospitals and SUNY campuses have to pay operating costs such as utility bills on their own, “and the numbers are staggering,” he said.

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    The day ended on an upbeat note with a strong gesture of support by Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn), who chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Committee and has been a longtime Downstate advocate. A month ago, he convened a meeting between the Brooklyn Assembly delegation and UUP in his Albany office to discuss Downstate’s needs in the upcoming budget. Tuesday, he came out of the Assembly chamber for an off-the-floor greeting to a group of UUP members led by Blackman-Stroud, above.

    UUP members will return to Albany for additional advocacy days throughout the session. Click here to sign up or for more information.

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