For Immediate Release
December 15, 2021
SYRACUSE, NY – United University Professions (UUP), the nation’s largest higher education union, held a press conference in Syracuse today urging state leaders to reinvest in SUNY hospitals, which played an integral role in responding to and maintaining the health and safety of New Yorkers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. At the event, UUP President Fred Kowal, New York State legislators, coalition members, and health care providers called on the state to restore $87 million for essential mission funding for SUNY’s public teaching hospitals in the upcoming 2022 state budget cycle.
Between 2008 and 2017, state funding for SUNY hospitals was cut by 75 percent, and it was fully eliminated in 2018. SUNY frontline workers have provided nonstop care to tens of thousands of patients since the start of the pandemic. UUP is advocating for the Legislature to allocate $87 million to restore essential mission funding; cover hospital debt service; and fully implement and expand SUNY’s Medical Education Opportunity Program.
“SUNY’s public teaching hospitals are a safety-net resource that provide care to some of New York’s most vulnerable communities, regardless of their ability to pay. From COVID-19 to debt service, to Medicaid cuts, and the rise of private conglomerate hospitals throughout the last decade, SUNY hospitals have become financially strained, and our workforce pushed to the brink, while the demand for care has increased,” said Frederick E. Kowal, UUP President. “Over the last 2 years of an unrelenting pandemic, SUNY healthcare providers have tirelessly worked to keep New Yorkers healthy. We must invest in SUNY medical systems to ensure that our public hospitals can continue to provide quality care to all of New York.”
“SUNY Upstate Hospital employees, from nurses to administrators to custodial staff and security, have long provided critical support to our community, and have stepped up and made immense sacrifices throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, they have seen a decrease in investment from New York State for the past two decades,” said State Senator Rachel May. “It is time for New York to step up and show we recognize and honor all that SUNY employees have provided by stopping this trend and providing real investment. From wage increases to facilities improvements, our investment will go far, and I will be working to get it done in this year’s budget.”
"SUNY Upstate Medical University is one of the crown jewels of public higher education in New York State – a cornerstone of the health care delivery system in Central New York and a center of research of innovation,” said State Senator John W. Mannion. “From critical vaccine discoveries to caring for COVID-19 patients – the frontline workers at Upstate continue to serve their community with distinction and deserve our support. I join UUP in calling for the restoration of critical mission funding for New York’s public teaching hospitals and will be fighting for these dollars in the upcoming state budget.”
"Despite being chronically underfunded for over a decade, SUNY hospitals and UUP members did what they had to do to get New Yorkers through the pandemic. With Upstate New York's persistent COVID case numbers it has never been more critical that we invest in this essential hospital system,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter. “Our workers and systems are overextended. It's time we make this investment and give them the support they need to continue to provide quality care to so many New Yorkers."
“SUNY hospitals provide an invaluable service to our communities by not only providing life-saving medical care, but also educating the next generation of health care professionals,” said Assemblyman Al Stirpe. “In order for these critical institutions to continue their mission, New York State must provide them with the necessary support and resources for students to learn and our families to receive the care they need. I stand with United University Professions and will fight for SUNY hospitals to get the funding they deserve.”
"The erosion of state support is translating into an erosion of student services and quality of education, from limited services to gaps in advisement that ultimately hinder the success of students,” said Marissa Pappas, Project Coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). “We must usher in a new era of fully funded SUNY, including our critical teaching hospitals. NYPIRG applauds the efforts of UUP to boost state support and urges Governor Hochul to use her executive budget to make sure that SUNY gets all the resources it needs."
SUNY Downstate was designated as a COVID-only hospital at the start of the pandemic, when New York City experienced a massive outbreak of COVID-19 and has now administered 10,000 vaccines. Stony Brook University Hospital has served thousands of patients and administered more than 20,000 vaccines at its state-run sites. Upstate Medical University developed the world’s most sensitive saliva test, which is being used at all SUNY campuses and many private and public institutions; the hospital has administered more than 20,000 vaccines.
In November, UUP launched the NY HEALS legislative campaign in Albany, kicking off a series of events advocating for measures that will support New York’s public higher education system. The NY HEALS campaign, part of UUP’s longstanding commitment to health care, education, access, leadership, and sustainability, will continue with events throughout the state ahead of the 2022 legislative session, highlighting UUP’s legislative priorities for the upcoming year.