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Healthcare workers advocate for more state funding for hospitals, nursing homes

State Senator Rachel may speaks at a rally in downtown Syracuse, April 5.

Unionized healthcare workers across New York State are continuing to pressure Gov. Kathy Hochul to put more state funds in nursing homes and hospitals. Activists are calling on the state to close a Medicaid reimbursement gap, by investing $2.5 billion in the budget currently being finalized in Albany.

Jamila Sherman, a health unit coordinator on a stroke floor at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, said an underfunded health care system has forgotten the people who take care of the sick and elderly in New York State.

"We are still at a point where we are struggling….there are people who are still being paid minimum wage and still fighting to keep their children to be taken care of so they can go to work, and their bodies are breaking down,” Sherman said.

Union officials with 1199 SEIU said Gov. Hochul’s proposed budget fails to grasp the gravity of the health care shortage. They are asking the state to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates by 10% for hospitals and 20% for nursing homes.

State Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) is hopeful the governor, who is negotiating an already late state budget, listens to the pleas of health care workers. May is optimistic because both the state Senate and Assembly support the increases.

"When we’re united we have a much better chance of putting her on the spot,” May said. “It’s hard to be the one lone person who says, oh no, I don’t care about nursing homes, I don’t care about hospital emergency rooms. So I think there is not just strength in our being united, but we have the right message and it’s going to be a hard one to go against.”

May also wants the budget to address the disparity in reimbursement rates in upstate New York. They have traditionally been lower because the cost of living is higher downstate.

"The problem is now with traveling nurse agencies for example, the cost has gone up for everybody, and to say that somehow upstate has cheaper health care costs is less persuasive anymore,” May said.

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.