Healthcare workers rally against proposed budget cuts

March 07, 2019 11:43 AM

Hundreds of healthcare workers, organizations and emergency medical service personnel descended on the Capitol Tuesday morning as part of Healthcare Advocacy Day.

Facing a $2.3 billion budget deficit this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo is now proposing more than $1 billion in cuts to hospitals and nursing homes. Ralliers say those cuts cut deep but will also hurt ambulance companies who have been trying to get state support.

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"It's all about patient care and making sure that we can provide the best equipment possible, the best training for our providers to initiate the patient care process," said David Gardner, director of operations for Mohawk Ambulance Service.

"We call it a health care crisis, health care emergencies. In some areas of the state of New York, this is a healthcare failure," said Lester Freemantle, chair of the United New York Ambulance Network.

Freemantle says the state does not recognize them as an essential service and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements are not enough to cover costs for many patients. He says the financial struggle is becoming too much for many ambulance companies to survive.

"EMS has to be considered healthcare. We are the ground zero, we're at the person's bedside, we're in the person's home," said Freemantle.

In response to Tuesday's rally, the New York State Division of the Budget fired back. In a statement sent to NewsChannel 13, Morris Peters said, "The Executive Budget also includes an increase in ambulance reimbursement rates and several new EMS workforce development efforts are underway."

Peters didn't provide additional details.

Freemantle says funding to support their services is a matter of life and death.
"If we're not available to actually respond to the person's side in a timely fashion, these people don't get to the hospital in time to actually save their lives," said Freemantle.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins said legislators will make fighting these cuts a top priority.


Jacquie Slater

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