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Unions urging state funding for financially distressed hospitals

Ellen Abbott
In Auburn Monday, union workers called for state funding for distressed hospitals

Union members at financially distressed hospitals across the state are taking action to urge state budget negotiators to include funding for these hospitals in the final state spending plan.  

The state’s biggest health care union, 1199SEIU, is highlighting what it says is a critical piece of funding, vital to keeping 28 financially troubled hospitals afloat.  

At issue, $290 million included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget that would replace some federal Medicaid waiver funding that ends this month. These funds are meant to transition distressed hospitals to new health care delivery models that are more cost effective.

The Assembly has cut that number by $80 million in its budget, and it’s not included at all in the Senate’s version of the budget.  Union members say the loss of this funding puts these hospitals, from Long Island to Lockport, in danger of shutting down.  

Among those facilities is Auburn Community Hospital, the only hospital in Cayuga County.  Operating Room nurse Kathy DeForest says it’s vital that the local facility keeps its lights on.

"This is a small town. A lot of people don’t travel more than 10 miles outside the radius of where they live. So for those people, it’s a big deal to have care here,” said DeForest.

Union members are urging residents of communities affected to urge state representatives to keep funding in the budget.  

“We offer good care, we offer a lot of services, an most of the people who work here are community people.  So we’re taking care of our families, we’re taking care of our neighbors, we’re taking care of our friends,” said DeForest.

Auburn Hospital officials dispute the idea the facility would have to close without the funding.

Other hospitals in central and northern New York that would lose these dollars include Carthage Area Hospital, Lewis County General Hospital, Rome Memorial and River Hospital in Alexandria Bay.

The governor and legislative leaders are currently negotiating the budget, which is due April 1.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.