Hearing held on COVID-19 effects on NY hospitals

State News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As New York lawmakers continue their series of virtual hearings on the effects of COVID-19, Wednesday’s focus was on hospitals across the state.

“At every hospital and every ward, on every floor, in every hallway and on every gurney, healthcare workers were making critical decisions,” said NYS Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

In the thick of the pandemic this spring, New York State took several steps to increase the bed space in hospitals, including the cancellation of elective surgeries.

“The first challenge we recognized as New York’s COVID-19 surge began was that our 53,000 statewide licensed bed capacity needed to be drastically and dramatically increased to meet a demand that some statistical models placed as high as 140,000 beds,” Zucker said.

But, even as the state has flattened the curve and the newest state data shows only 558 patients hospitalized with COVID, hospitals, especially rural ones, are facing financial difficulties.

“These hospitals, they’ve been operating on incredibly thin margins for the past several years. Now with the additional burdens associated with the lost revenue due to the mandate to cancel elective surgeries, on top of all the investments that they had to make to prepare for the pandemic, these hospitals are experiencing significant financial challenges,” said state senator Pamela Helming.

“We’re seeing a decrease in the volume, and therefore, the revenue function. Also included in that is that the payer mix is changed. And it is becoming more problematic for our institutions, fewer commercial payments as a result, the transfer to medicaid because people became unemployed,” said Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske.

Another topic was personal protective equipment. While the state said it distributed 24 million pieces of PPE, lawmakers said frontline workers still voiced concerns over having enough equipment. 

“I can tell you that going forward this is part of why the Governor’s put in place the 90-day amount of PPE,” Zucker said.

Zucker was also asked again Wednesday for the number of nursing home residents who contracted the coronavirus and then later died in hospitals. He again said that he needed to look over the data before providing it to lawmakers. 

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