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For Immediate Release
February 21, 2020

Kowal tells MRT: Leave SUNY’s hospitals alone

CLICK HERE for UUP President Fred Kowal's Feb. 21 testimony to the state's Medicaid Redesign Team II

United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., today called on the state’s Medicaid Redesign Team II to spare SUNY's three public teaching hospitals and medical schools as it seeks to save $2.5 billion in Medicaid spending.

“The SUNY hospitals exist for two reasons: to provide a public good and to care for the most vulnerable New Yorkers; and two, to train the next generation of doctors and health care providers at a time when New York and the rest of the country are on the precipice of a doctor shortage crisis,” Kowal said.

Kowal was one of the dozens of speakers who appeared today before a panel of five MRT II members at a public hearing in Albany. He explained that SUNY’s state-operated hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse treat more than 1.3 million patients each year—many of them Medicaid recipients who depend on the hospitals for primary care services.

The hospitals also subsidize their medical schools, which graduate thousands of doctors and medical professionals each year. The medical school at Brooklyn’s SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University serves as a pipeline of doctors and medical professionals to New York City.

More than 60 percent of Downstate’s medical school students are students of color. The College of Medicine ranks in the 96th percentile when it comes to graduating African American students.

Stony Brook University’s medical school trains more than 500 medical students and more than 750 residents and fellows annually. More than 60 percent of its students are from New York State, and nearly half of graduates are placed in residencies in the state.

Eighty percent of Upstate Medical University’s Class of 2024 is from New York; 26 percent of the class is made up of people of color. Students from New York make up the majority of students at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“New York State must not walk away from its responsibility to ensure that every citizen has access to quality medical care, nor should it walk away from its responsibility to train the next generation of doctors and medical professionals,” Kowal said.

To build a better future for New York, the union is also asking the state to establish the Medical Educational Opportunity Program, which would guide and assist SUNY undergraduate students from underrepresented and under-resourced communities through a SUNY medical school.

MEOP, part of UUP’s NY25 plan, would provide medical school preparation assistance, financial support and professional mentoring. The program’s goal is to bring more diversity to SUNY’s medical schools and graduate more doctors who will practice in areas with diverse populations.

“We don’t have a choice,” said Kowal. “Medicaid is crucial for medical care, and indirectly for the education of future physicians. We must invest in that future.”

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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