'CRITICAL ISSUE': Ulster County, Kingston leaders mount effort to keep hospital from closing (video)
KINGSTON, N.Y. — Ulster County leaders are scrambling to prevent the closing of one of Kingston’s two hospitals amid growing financial woes for the institutions.
Two of those leaders — county Legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo, R-Accord, and Legislator Robert Aiello, R-Saugerties, who chairs the Legislature’s Health and Personnel Committee — have written to New York’s two U.S. senators, asking them to appear before county lawmakers to discuss the hospitals’ federal reimbursement rates.
Kingston and Benedictine hospitals are reimbursed at a lower rate than hospitals in neighboring Dutchess and Orange counties because they are in a different federally designated Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSA. Officials with HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, the company that owns the two local hospitals, say Ulster being in the same MSA as Dutchess and Orange would generate an extra $10 million per year in revenue and eliminate the need to possibly close a hospital.
Bernardo and Aiello, in their letter, asked Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to appear before the full county Legislature or Aiello’s committee to “address the pressing concerns of the reimbursement rates for healthcare facilities in Ulster County,” according to a press release.
“Clearly ... we should have the same benefits” as the neighboring counties, Bernardo said in a recent interview.
Attempts in recent years to have Congress change Ulster County’s MSA designation have failed.
In the press release, Bernardo said the “inequity in reimbursement rates is having a very real and negative impact on the healthcare system throughout Ulster County. The proposal to close one of the hospitals in the city of Kingston is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“It is having a negative impact on every aspect of healthcare,” Aiello said in the same press release, “and we are losing skilled, high-paying jobs and important healthcare programs to Dutchess County because they are reimbursed at a significantly higher rate.”
Aiello also said the problems of the two local hospitals, which amassed combined losses of $10 million from 2008 to 2011, can be attributed to several factors, including Ulster County’s weak economy, its aging population, the federal reimbursement rate and the establishment of specialized medical practices in the area. Continued...
“This is a serious problem, and we are going to have to live with decisions (that are made today) 10 years from now,” Aiello said.
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, who made no public comment about the hospital situation for nearly a week after HealthAlliance announced it might close one building, said on Thursday that the situation was “disconcerting.”
“The imbalance that exists as a result of the MSA — there is no question that it is not only unfair but places HealthAlliance at a competitive disadvantage,” Hein said.
Hein said he, too, has been in touch with the offices of Schumer and Gillibrand in an effort to formulate a solution.
Hein also said Ulster County officials need to “speak with one voice in an effort to bring resolution to this critical issue.”
HealthAlliance officials have not said which hospital might close if a shutdown becomes necessary, but Ulster County Legislator Jeanette Provenzano, D-Kingston, suspects in will be Benedictine.
Her suspicion is based on the fact that the state’s Berger Commission, which issued the affiliation mandate in 2006, said abortions and other reproductive health procedures had to remain available under the new arrangement.
Benedictine, a Catholic hospital, forbids such procedures, so an outpatient clinic called the Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center was built on the grounds of Kingston Hospital to provide them.
“The Berger Commission should take some responsibility,” Provenzano said. “We, in good faith, this community, followed their advice, and if they (experts) didn’t know what was going to happen 10 years out, we are in big trouble.”
Kingston Alderman Thomas Hoffay suggested other problems may be at play. Continued...
“I think that maybe we need to look closer at how the merger procedures were put in place and how the resources were allocated in the two hospitals themselves,” said Hoffay, D-Ward 2, the Common Council’s majority leader and a part-time staffer for state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston. “Whatever the bottom-line issues are that have forced us into this, whatever the causes were, we have to pull together as a community and make a solutions out of this problem.”
Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo, who met with HealthAlliance officials on Tuesday, said whatever needs to be done to keep both hospitals open must occur.
“We are working with hospital officials and the board to come together in an effort to avoid the closing of a campus,” Gallo said after the meeting. “We are going to work with the county executive, Assemblyman Cahill, Senator Schumer and other state and federal representatives ... so that we can come up with plans that are best for the community and its long-term quality of care.”
Gallo said closing one of the hospitals would result in a significant loss of jobs, and he estimated a hit of more than $300 million on the local economy.
Kingston and Benedictine hospitals, which are less than a mile apart in Midtown Kingston, have been operated by HealthAlliance since 2009, though the state-mandated affiliation of the two hospitals was declared complete in 2008.
The hospitals employs a total of 1,500 full-time and 300 part-time employees. HealthAlliance officials have not said how many jobs might be eliminated if one of the hospitals closes.
See inaccurate information in a story? Other feedback and/or ideas for us to consider? Tell us here.
Location, ST | website.com
National News Videos
- Law & Disorder (June 19, 2013) (3219)
- Two ATV accidents, one motorcycle crash claim three lives in three days in Greene County (update) (2309)
- Fired Orange County deputy from Kingston arrested for shoplifting in Auburn (1348)
- Mole Mole adds Mexican flavor to Kingston waterfront (recipe) (1202)
- Kingston Point Dog Park nearly complete (868)
- Catskills could get two casinos under NY leaders' deal (843)
- Bear cub freed from Phoenicia trash bin after some tense moments (733)
- Group raps Hinchey over change of heart on Cantine Dam viewing (25)
- WEIGHTLIFTING: Pat Carroll, Fred Dini set bench press marks (7)
- Bear cub freed from Phoenicia trash bin after some tense moments (6)
- Study says Catskill Mountain Rail Trail would attract 140,000 annual visitors, over $3 million (4)
- Kaaterskill Rail Trail offers hiking opportunity after lengthy effort (3)
- Fired Orange County deputy from Kingston arrested for shoplifting in Auburn (3)
- State notice on TechCity site pollution cleanup effort cheers officials (3)
Recent Activity on Facebook
We'll be using this blog to publicize corrections to stories, to explain, if possible, how we made a particular mistake and to give you a better window into our reporting process.
City Editor Jeremy Schiffres comments about the news of the day and other topics that he finds interesting.