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Sun., Dec. 21
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Nursing care costs

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New York’s Legislature is being pushed by the New York State Nursing Association to require hospitals to increase the ratio of nurses to patients, arguing that more nurses will result in better patient care, reduce deaths and leave hospitals financially intact.

What a curious justification of legislation that would increase health care delivery costs $3 billion. Of course everyone endorses lower death rates and better care. But a realistic look at New York’s hospitals should give advocates pause. Look at the hospitals in Brooklyn. They are perpetually in a state of near bankruptcy. Obligations to union medical and pension benefits funds are unpaid or in substantial arrears, vendors seek cash before medical supplies are delivered, the physical facilities atrophy and patients fearing the outcome of hospitalization utilize other medical facilities in New York City. The State University of New York hospital in Brooklyn, Downstate Medical University, loses millions of dollars a month.

In Brooklyn, the hospital system cannot afford to operate with today’s standards, let alone with adding a requirement that even more nurses be hired.

Across New York, urban and rural hospitals have experienced cost increases imposed as a result of political backroom deals. Former Gov. George Pataki was running for re-election and seeking endorsement of the Service Employees International Union when he made a deal that imposed a large wage increase on hospitals with SEIU contracts but with no recourse to impose higher fees on insurance companies and Medicaid. Hospital reimbursement rates are in effect controlled by government through Medicaid reimbursement. The state controls what services are offered, and now the Legislature is considering determining the staffing of hospital wards.

The Greater New York Hospital Association decries the intervention by the state in inherently local decisions. Substituting the judgment of Albany bureaucrats and legislators transfers patient care decisions to the state. The association maintains that the extra costs imposed on the hospital system will result in reduction of support staff, nursing aides and licensed practical nurses.

Northern New Yorkers will be better off if the administrators of hospitals in Massena, Potsdam, Carthage, Lowville and Watertown continue to determine the best methods to delivery first-class care. They are certainly more adept delivering public service than a legislature that cannot cleanse itself of corruption and dysfunction.

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