By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
In a show of commitment to NYC Health + Hospitals, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a $2 billion infusion of aid to stop a financial hemorrhage that for decades has plagued the nation’s largest public health-care system.
“We applaud the mayor for his leadership and ongoing commitment to provide and improve vital services for all who live in our city,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “Clearly, no service is more vital than health care — and no public health-care system has been more diligent than Health + Hospitals.”
The de Blasio administration’s H+H proposal released on April 26 includes $100 million for capital investments, adds $700 million to reduce the H+H’s budget shortfall in 2016, and has land sales and affordable housing tie-ins. It is part of the mayor’s executive budget subject to the City Council’s vote.
“Most important to DC 37 and the 18,000 Health +Hospitals workers the union represents is that the mayor’s plan excludes facility closures and layoffs,” Garrido said.
NYC Health + Hospitals employees are on the frontlines of health emergencies. Their vigilance successfully stemmed the deadly Ebola virus and Legionnaire’s disease. But H+H, whose network includes 11 hospitals, long-term care facilities, 21 school-based clinics, and home care, faces a deficit that may reach $2 billion by 2019.
“For purely political reasons, the current funding formula for state charity funds allows private hospitals to take the lion’s share of monies even though the city’s public hospitals provide care for most of the indigent and uninsured patients in the state,” Garrido said.
These funding formulas shortchange H+H of tens of millions of dollars in critical Medicaid and other federal subsidies.
H+H cares for some 1.2 million New Yorkers annually, regardless of their immigrant status or ability to pay. Health + Hospitals treats 60 percent of the indigent and uninsured patients in the state, but it only receives 3 percent of the $3.5 billion Albany allocates for those patients annually.
“Until we are able to ensure the proper funding to Health + Hospitals, which provides the most care to the city’s most vulnerable populations,” Garrido said, “we are not going to be able to maintain a modern, vital system of health care for the families of this city.”
On the steps of City Hall on April 19, DC 37 joined Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council member Vanessa Gibson and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to demand more funding for Health + Hospitals.
“Our state and federal government must do their part to ensure New Yorkers access to high quality comprehensive health care,” Brewer said.
At H+H annual meetings in April and May, Local 1549’s Ralph Palladino said inadequate funding is not a new issue. “We consistently receive less money for care than we are entitled to,” Palladino said.
DC 37 supports legislation to change the current funding formulas. The union has successfully beat back privatization attempts, layoffs and closings — measures this report takes off the table.