Guest Post by Tess Solomon, Community Catalyst
New York’s legislative session is almost done for the year. Before the session ends, HCFANY is urging passage of three bills that will give New York consumers input into local hospital decisions: one bill gives consumers a greater voice when hospital close entirely or eliminate emergency or maternity services. The second bill, already passed by the Assembly, requires every hospital to have a community advisory board. The third, which adds consumers to the Public Health and Health Planning Council, was passed by both the Assembly and the Senate and now needs the Governor’s signature.
A2986-A (Simon)/S5144-A (Kavanagh) would require advance public notice and a public hearing in the affected community to elicit consumer concerns before a hospital can close or eliminate maternity or emergency services. Currently, a public hearing is only required 30 days after a hospital closes entirely. The NYS Department of Health would be required to address consumer concerns in any final closure plan, with special attention to ensuring continuing access to needed health services for people who are underserved, uninsured, or have disabilities.
Over the last 20 years, 41 hospitals have closed across New York State, while other facilities have eliminated maternity units and emergency departments. The latest proposed closing is the maternity department at Eastern Niagara Hospital’s Lockport facility. This rural area already lost one maternity unit several years ago when Eastern Niagara ended services at its nearby facility in Newfane. The end of maternity services at its Lockport facility, to take effect on June 30, will mean travelling between 14 to 35 miles further for time-sensitive maternity care. Community members have been vocal in opposition through protests, op-eds and petitions.
Community protests also continue in lower Manhattan where the Mount Sinai Health System is planning to close its Beth Israel Medical Center, an 800-bed facility, and construct a 70-bed replacement hospital. Already Beth Israel has closed its maternity unit, directing pregnant women to other Mount Sinai facilities on the Upper West Side and in East Harlem.
- Call Assemblymember Jo Ann Simon to say thank you for sponsoring the bill, and let her know you want to see action on it: 518-455-5426
- Call Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, and let him know you want the committee to report the bill out: 518-455-4941. (You can also say thank you for his sponsorship of our two other hospital bills! )
- Call Senator Brian Kavanagh and say thank for sponsoring the bill: 518-455-2625
- Call Senator Liz Krueger, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and let her know you want the bill reported out: 518-455-2297
Community Advisory Boards
Non-profit hospitals are required to have a community-service plan, but they are not required to have community advisory boards. A1148 (Gottfried)/S1856 (Hoylman) would require all general hospitals in New York State to have a community advisory board that would provide insights into community needs and priorities. The community advisory board would be engaged in activities such as developing the hospital’s plan for providing charity care services and improving access to health services for the underserved.
This bill has passed the Assembly and is pending a final vote in the Senate. Call your Senators to push this bill forward. Join us in telling them that it is critical that affected consumers have a say in their hospital’s community service plans!
- Find your Senator here and call to say you support this bill.
Adding Consumers to the Public Health and Health Planning Council
A4071 (Gottfried)/S870 (Hoylman) would add more consumer representatives to a state council that reviews hospital consolidation plans. The NYS Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) is the oversight body responsible for reviewing the most important hospital transactions, such as mergers of community hospitals with large health systems. Despite the impact of these decisions on patients’ access to care, consumers are not easily able to participate in the PHHPC. The council has only one seat designated for a consumer health advocate and it has been left vacant for over two years. The majority of council members, including the chair, are executives or employees of hospitals and other health providers. This bill would increase the number of consumer representatives on the PHHPC to four. This measure has passed both the Senate and the Assembly and will be sent to the Governor next for approval.
- Call Governor Cuomo and let him know you want him to sign this bill: 518-474-8390
HCFANY is closely monitoring these bills and pushing for action. As hospitals consolidate, health consumers must have a voice. These bills are a critical step towards that goal.