Testimony before the State Assembly Health Committee on the Report of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, December 11, 2006, Syracuse, N.Y.
Good afternoon. My name is Stacy Gantt. I am a registered nurse and a member of the New York State Nurses Association. I work at the Van Duyn Home and Hospital, which has served the residents of Onondaga County for 182 years.
When the Commission was created by law in late 2005, it was based on a foregone conclusion that hospitals and nursing homes needed to be “right-sized.” It then was charged with finding data to support that assumption.
The result, as could be expected, is a flawed document which, if implemented, will hurt more than it heals. NYSNA urges the State Legislature to reject these recommendations and use this opportunity to undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s healthcare delivery system. At very least, the time period for implementing the recommendations should be extended to allow more time for public input and a thorough analysis of the impact of these proposals.
Our concern is that state leaders will implement these recommendations as a “quick fix” and fail to take other steps that are needed for true healthcare reform in New York.
We disagree with the statement in the report’s executive summary that “a fundamental driver of the crisis in our healthcare delivery system is excess capacity.” Without any documentation, the report claims that “hospitalizations expand in relation to the number of available beds” and accuses healthcare facilities of admitting patients solely to generate revenue. In my experience, this simply is not true.
In general, NYSNA sees the following major problems with the Commission’s report:
As a caregiver at Van Duyn, I am aware of its importance to Onondaga County. Because it is operated by the county, no one is turned away who needs care. It is the safety net for the elderly, the infirm, the uninsured, and underinsured that have nowhere else to go. It is a valuable asset to the community.
This asset is desperately needed. As reported by the Commission’s own regional advisory committee, Van Duyn’s occupancy rate is over 95 percent. It is more than a nursing home, with a traumatic brain injury unit and a rehabilitation unit where residents receive a higher level of care. Under our expert care, residents’ conditions improve, a fact that the Commission cites as a costly problem.
It is true that Van Duyn has faced financial difficulties. We believe these issues were resolved, however, through an agreement with the state that would have put it in the black within a few years. In our last contract negotiation, the RNs at Van Duyn agreed to a minimal pay increase and were willing to make other concessions to keep the facility viable. These efforts, along with our hard work and commitment to our residents, have been thrown aside by the Commission.
Finally, if state legislators approve this report, it will be causing unnecessary hardship for the very people who put them in office. Van Duyn residents are residents, not patients. Van Duyn is their home. Now they are asking us, “Will I have to leave? Will you still be taking care of me?”
Many of the nurses’ aides at Van Duyn are single parents who are working very hard to feed and shelter their families. If this consolidation leads to layoffs, as we believe they will, these workers will have very few employment alternatives in the Syracuse area. Has the Legislature determined the cost to taxpayers when these workers need social services, housing, and health coverage?
NYSNA and its members urge the Legislature to reject the “quick fix” and make the tough decisions that will truly reform health care and reduce costs:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony. NYSNA looks forward to working with the legislature to take the steps necessary to make health care in New York a model for the nation.
For more information, contact Governmental Affairs at 518.782.9400, ext. 283 or by e-mail.