By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
DC 37 had a great day in Harlem at the annual Harlem Week festivities in August as union activists kicked off the signature campaign urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to enact the new Enhanced Safety Net Hospital bill.
The union petitions add community support for new legislation that would protect the safety net of public hospitals in New York State threatened by unprecedented funding shortfalls.
Safety net bills (A. 9476-A)/(S.6948-A), which the state Senate and Assembly passed in June, creates a true safety net definition based on the number of Medicaid and uninsured patients served. With the definition, additional funding can be negotiated in the next state budget cycle to safety net providers, including the public hospitals, and would increase the opportunity for federal matching funds.
Assembly Health Chair Richard Gottfried, and Assembly members William Colton, Vivian Cook, Maritza Davila, and Jeffrey Dinowitz, and State Senate Health Chair Kemp Hannon, and Senators Ruth Hassel-Thompson, Brad M. Hoylman, Kevin S. Parker, and Velmanette Montgomery sponsored the legislation.
Taking the public healthcare issue to the streets, DC 37 set up resource and advocacy tables at Harlem Hospital and at its new ambulatory care building on West 136th St. and Lenox Ave.
“In our cities, communities of color, new immigrants, and working families still struggle to access high-quality care in their neighborhoods. In our rural communities, patients are anxious that the only hospital around for miles may shutter,” said Barbara Edmonds, director of field operations at DC 37. “Our public hospital systems have never been more needed by more patients, but face unprecedented fiscal challenges in the coming years. We need the governor to enact this legislation now!”
Harlem is the symbolic epicenter of African-American culture and politics. Its rich heritage blends African, African-American, Caribbean, Latino and European roots. Every August, New York City celebrates Harlem’s unique culture, religions, politics and entertainment at a month-long festival. Now is in its fourth decade, Harlem Week draws some 2 million visitors from the five boroughs, across the state, and around the world.
This originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Public Employee Press.