Tina Gerardi, NYSNA deputy executive director, was one of the speakers at a news conference in Albany today sponsored by the Save Our Safety Net – Campaign.
NYSNA is a member of the SOS-C coalition of healthcare consumer advocates, healthcare providers, religious groups, and labor organizations. The group is urging the state Hospital Closing Commission (Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century) to pay attention to the needs of the medically underserved as it determines which hospitals it will recommend for closing.
The news conference preceded the January meeting of the Commission. Following is the text of the release:
Coalition Tells Hospital Closing Commission: Don’t Hurt Those Who Need Care the Most
Albany, NY – Jan. 12, 2006 – A coalition of consumer advocates, healthcare providers, religious leaders, and labor representatives came to the State Capitol today to express their concerns about the impact of possible hospital closings on New York’s most vulnerable populations.
Save Our Safety Net - Campaign members later attended today’s meeting of the state Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century.
The criteria adopted by the Commission in November to guide it in determining which hospitals and nursing homes should be “rightsized” are incomplete, according to the SOS-C. “Although the adopted framework for rightsizing does recognize some of our concerns, there are serious questions about what has been left out of the Commission’s design,” said Judy Wessler, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, and co-coordinator of the coalition.
Hospital closings, particularly in New York City, have traditionally been concentrated in the communities where residents need healthcare services the most. Maps of New York City provided by the coalition showed that of 66 hospitals that have closed in the past 40 years, an overwhelming majority of which have been located in or near high-poverty, medically undeserved areas.
“This unjust and discriminatory pattern is likely to continue under the Commission’s adopted criteria,” Wessler said. “Most striking is the lack of any focus on racial and ethnic disparities in access to care and the outcomes of healthcare services. Study after study has shown that these disparities exist, yet the Commission turns up a blank on the collection or analysis of data related to these disparities.”
Other major concerns include:
- In the Availability of Services criterion, there is no consideration of designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). In these areas, the population to primary care provider ratio is more than 3,000 to 1.
- The Commission should consider access to care once a hospital is closed. In many communities, access to care, especially for the uninsured and Medicaid patients, is available only through community health centers, hospital emergency rooms, and hospital-based ambulatory care clinics. Access to primary ambulatory care services is a specific metric that should be reviewed.
- The Commission must make a special commitment to communities where there are high numbers of low-income uninsured residents, high numbers of limited English-proficient residents, and large numbers of residents enrolled in Medicaid/Family Health Plus/Child Health Plus.
“We are already seeing the horrible effects of a crumbling health infrastructure with less access to services,” said Dr. Barbie Gatton, an emergency medicine physician and president of the Committee of Interns & Residents – SEIU. “New Yorkers simply cannot be expected to accept further cutbacks that put our public health and safety in jeopardy.”
“The Commission must ensure that current barriers to healthcare services are not made worse by its recommendations,” said Tina Gerardi, RN, deputy executive director of the New York State Nurses Association. “Many patients, especially the elderly and disabled, already have difficulty accessing healthcare because of low income, lack of fluency in English, and the distance they must travel to receive care.”
The SOS-C has already sent letters to the Commission about its concerns and has offered to provide data on community health care needs and racial and ethnic disparities.
“We do not intend to go away,” said Danny Porro, a community mental health and disabilities advocate. “We will monitor the Commission throughout its deliberations because we have too much stake. We believe in the motto: “First, do no harm.”
With more than 34,000 members, NYSNA is the oldest and largest state nurses’ association in the nation. It is an influential union for RNs, representing nurses in New York and New Jersey. Offering a wide range of services to its members, NYSNA fosters high standards of nursing education and practice and works to advance the profession through legislative activity. It is a constituent of the American Nurses Association and of the United American Nurses, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.