PLATTSBURGH - North Country health-care providers are calling on elected officials to protect vital services and much-needed jobs that are being jeopardized by fiscal cliff and deficit reduction negotiations in Washington.
On Thursday, the leaders of Adirondack Health in Saranac Lake, CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh and Elizabethtown Community Hospital held a press conference in Plattsburgh to ask the public to join them in urging elected officials to resolve fiscal challenges without sacrificing health-care services and jobs in the region. Officials said hospitals and nursing homes have already endured drastic cuts, and further reductions would undermine their ability to provide access to good health care.
"Each of our organizations has had to deal with these fiscal realities without compromising our commitment to quality care and community need," Adirondack Health President and CEO Chandler Ralph said in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, we are feeling increasing pressure to evaluate those services that fill a community need but in the long run are unsustainable."
Hospitals and nursing homes in the North Country have already dealt with $320 million in funding cuts over the next decade as part of the Affordable Care Act and other adopted Medicare and Medicaid cuts, according to a joint press release issued by the three hospitals. Recent health-care reforms have also resulted in the need for several hospitals in the region to implement long-term restructuring plans, including reductions to their workforce, in order to continue providing a high level of patient-centered care to their communities, hospital officials said.
Health care providers in the region would be hit with an additional $432 million in cuts over 10 years if Congress and the White House can't find a way to avoid the fiscal cliff. In 2013, other Medicare payment policies that have expired or are set to expire represent an additional $11 million in losses for area hospitals.
Hospital administrators are worried about the future, said Rod Boula, administrator and CEO at Elizabethtown Community Hospital.
"Small, community hospitals simply cannot shoulder additional cuts," he said in the release. "Elizabethtown Community Hospital is facing cuts of more than four hundred thousand dollars. That's 2 percent of its gross revenues per year; and $4 million dollars over 10 years. This will have a tremendous negative impact on the availability of primary care services to our rural communities.
"As a nation we cannot afford to sustain the rate of growth in what is being spent on health care. We as providers need to be willing to challenge ourselves to determine how we can deliver greater value and better outcomes while expending fewer resources to produce the desired results," said Stephens Mundy, president and CEO of CVPH Medical Center. "However, if the extreme cuts to reimbursement being discussed in Washington do occur, the process is going to be incredibly painful and all the more challenging. Although we are not-for-profits we are businesses as well with bills to pay and payrolls to meet. When we receive significantly less money than it costs to provide services, something has to give."
Health care officials said that regional hospitals have grappled with fiscal challenges and the realties of health-care reform, and are working to make care more affordable through programs that focus on preventive care, improving quality and enhanced patient safety.