Statement By State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer In Response To The State Commission On Health Care Facilities In The 21st Century's Final Report

Suzi Oppenheimer

November 30, 2006

Earlier this week, the State Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, also known as the Berger Commission, issued their recommendations to restructure New York’s hospital and nursing home systems in an effort to cut the state’s massive health care costs. Their proposed plan --18 months in the making -- calls for nine hospitals and seven nursing homes to close, with dozens more recommended for downsizing, merger or restructuring.

The reality is we desperately need new, innovative ways to not only contain the State’s runaway health care costs, but also to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to quality and timely health care services, especially those who are currently without health insurance coverage.

These recommendations are a step in what will surely be a lengthy, ongoing process. Clearly, much work remains as we head towards reforming our health care system, including a more comprehensive prescription drug program, affordable health coverage for working families and better access to primary and preventative care.

At this time, we must carefully review the impact of the Commission’s recommendations to make sure they equitably and fairly took into account the needs of all our communities. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be working closely with our community members, local elected and business leaders, local hospital representatives, union leaders and the Spitzer-Paterson administration to shape a health care policy that better serves the needs of all New Yorkers.

Make no mistake; fixing our State’s health care crisis will be a painful and difficult process. No one wants to see hospitals and nursing homes close. However, vital as it is to streamline the State’s health care system, I remain steadfast in my belief that costs cannot be controlled at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens.

Be assured that I will be fighting to make our health care system more responsive to the needs of all New Yorkers, especially working families, and that we protect the rights and opportunities of health care workers during this transition. My main concern is that the road to reform– whether it entails hospital closures, mergers, or restructuring– does not unfairly impact those communities already underserved.