NYSNA Board Member Judith Cutchin, RN, President of NYSNA’s NYCH+H/Mayoral Executive Council, testified before the Joint Assembly and Senate Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2022 Executive Budget: Health, on February 25. Below are excerpts of that testimony.
I want to focus on three critical issues in my testimony today.
First, we think it is outrageous that the budget is considering hundreds of millions in cuts to hospitals and other health services in the middle of an ongoing pandemic.
We should not be cutting—we should be increasing funding to build up our public health infrastructure to deal with COVID and future health emergencies.
In addition, we should be expanding funding for hospitals and other providers in the front line fight against the pandemic. We should also be providing more funding for Medicaid and to cover uninsured people, including undocumented workers.
Second, we should be implementing minimum staffing standards to all hospitals and nursing homes.
In my hospital [Woodhull Hospital] we saw firsthand that we did not have enough staff to provide the care that patients needed and this contributed to higher death tolls in all of our hospitals and, as noted by the Attorney General in our nursing homes.
Establishing minimum staffing standards is also vital to addressing racial and economic disparities in care. Richly funded private hospitals had more staffing (and PPE and other equipment) than our public and private safety net hospitals.
These disparities had a devastating impact on the communities of color and low income patients that safety net hospitals serve. Minimum staffing standards are a first step toward addressing inequities in health care.
Finally, we have to provide increased funding for Enhanced Safety Net hospitals and other safety net hospitals. We should be increasing ICP/DSH funding for these hospitals and increasing their Medicaid reimbursement rate to reflect their disproportionate share of these patients.
Now is not the time for business as usual in addressing our health care budget gaps.
We need bold action to increase spending, mandate minimum staffing standards, and target extra funding to the safety net. Instead of cutting costs, the budget must be balanced and vital social service spending must be increased by raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers, Wall Street interests, and the corporations that have gotten richer during the crisis.
The legislature needs to rise to the occasion—we are in a serious crisis and we need to act like it.