Strictly Stasi
by Anthony Stasi
Jun 10, 2009 | 3275 views | 1 1 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In recent weeks, the H1N1 “Swine Flu” virus has been on the minds of all New Yorkers. New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson has taken issue with the fact that, while this virus is but only one health care issue, the larger issue is the availability of healthcare facilities and hospitals. He points to the diverse and densely populated city, and sees a crisis.

Thompson’s office recently released a Policy Alert that documents how the closing of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals have impacted neighboring hospitals. Increasing emergency room registration rates were a major concern in the study. Add to that longer turnaround times for ambulances and overworked hospital staff, and you have a potential healthcare crisis in the city.

“Last year, on a busy day, 300 to 330 people would visit the emergency room at Jamaica Hospital,” Thompson explains. “Tuesday, its emergency room hit a record high of 663 patients and the hospital has setup two mobile vans to take care of the increasing demand for medical attention.”

According to Thompson’s findings, doctors from the hospitals have reported that administrators have given them “temporary permission to admit patients but keep them in the hallways, in some cases for as long as 24 to 48 hours.”

With New York’s ever-growing population, and many who might not have access to health care, you need a solution. Healthcare was an issue in last year’s election, and Bill Thompson is making sure it’s on the agenda this year as well.

“For too long, the necessary leadership has been absent and critically important issues have been ignored,” said Thompson.

Thompson points to a study that came from his office in 2006, titled “Emergency Room Care: Will It Be There?” In that report, Thompson’s office spoke about the possibility of five hospitals closing if there was not some sort of action taken by the New York State Department of Health.

Thompson has outlined some steps that he feels will address the issue of healthcare facilities and hospitals in New York City. They include:

• Have the City triage individuals with flu symptoms at ambulatory care facilities.

• Ask other New York locales to send personnel, equipment, and supplies to New York City as if it was an emergency like a flood or fire.

• Provide loans and working capital to cover the expansion initiatives that hospitals need to meet increasing demand

Thompson is going to make certain that this issue stays in the forefront. As I was told by a former hospital worker only this weekend, politicians came to this issue when it was far too late. But public policy tells us that even if it is late, it is never too late. There are still other hospitals that need to stay open.

The economic diversity of New York City is the bigger concern when it comes to healthcare. The poor, the less-covered, find their way to hospitals and emergency rooms when they have no other recourse. Take away their hospital, and you have a risky healthcare situation.

There is another element to the closing of hospitals that is every bit as relevant. The people that worked in these facilities are now out of work.

“It’s about jobs,” Mayor Bloomberg says in his commercials. Both men understand the importance of jobs in this campaign and in the life of the city. Healthcare was supposed to be the place where the job market was growing. We have an aging population of baby boomers. Healthcare, as a career, should have been a safe haven.

The mayor, in fairness, has dived into issues such as education and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center with strong administrative muscle. He makes things happen with less concern for politics than most. But Thompson has taken some stances in this campaign that are important, and the closing of hospitals is important. Here’s hoping you never have to find that out.

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J. Tannuzzo
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June 13, 2009
Well - written ! Very informative.