David! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m an Advance Practice RN with a PhD in Health Administration. I work at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in the Wound Center. I have lived in Plattsburgh since 1984 when I came up here to teach. I taught nursing at SUNY Plattsburgh for 20 years and just recently retired from teaching.
Congratulations! And how long have you been active with NYSNA?
I’ve had a long relationship with NYSNA, including serving as the chair of the PAC for six years. I’m proud to be part of an organization that demonstrates such incredible leadership around healthcare.
What makes your unit and your community unique in terms of healthcare?
Plattsburgh is the North Country — it’s heavily rural here. Rural America doesn’t have a lot of options for healthcare because we don’t have the population base to support many private insurers. The area used to have an HMO called the Mohawk Valley Plan, but they pulled out a year or two ago when they realized there just weren’t enough people to support it. The vast majority of my patients are Medicare primary and a good number are Medicare secondary. It’s just the only option. That’s why I believe that healthcare should not be a commodity sold in the marketplace. So many people don’t have the option to have private insurers compete for their care.
How do you see federal attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act affecting your patients?
Any change to Medicare would be a catastrophe, particularly up here. Anything that would remove or diminish the funding for Medicare would severely harm people at both ends of the age spectrum — the very young and very old who tend to be the most dependent on Medicaid. In the Wound Center, many of our patients are elderly, struggling with diabetic injuries to their feet for example. I don’t think people understand how many of our nation’s elderly rely on Medicare for their day-to-day needs. And it’s not like most of them can just go out and get a job. Our system of tying insurance to employment is only good when you’re healthy. The minute you need your healthcare, you’re going to be out of a job and there goes your healthcare.
How do you see Congressional attempts to change the Affordable Care Act affecting New York as a whole?
New York is in the unique position of having 25% of our state Medicaid budget paid at the county level from county taxes. That makes Medicaid the biggest line item in most county budgets. I recently attended a forum organized by Governor Cuomo up here in Plattsburgh to address the Faso-Collins amendment and the devastating financial impact it would have on New York. The most moving speaker was a recipient of state Medicaid funds: a 50-something cancer survivor who said, “Without Medicaid I can’t work. I would not have gotten my cancer treatment. I would have died. I wouldn’t be here.”
What other healthcare issues are you passionate about?
There are still a lot of people who don’t understand safe staffing, and why it’s so important. Earlier this month I was down at the County Legislature speaking in support of a PLA for the local airport expansion and I had someone ask me about Safe Staffing. The bottom line is, it’s about making sure enough nurses are there to give our patients the care they need and deserve. But it’s also the RN on duty that’s responsible for the work of non-nurses like LPNs, aids, and others. If we’re not able to be accountable because we’re stretched too thin, it’s our license on the line.
Anything in particular you’d like NYSNA members to know?
Just to say thanks. The labor movement is the key to success in a grassroots campaign. And NYSNA has the structure to educate large numbers of people at a time—members, families. When that happens, you can really move a grassroots campaign forward in a strong, positive way. I think NYSNA has shown real leadership in that.