Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration proposed significant cuts to the New York State budget last month that could lead to a $38 million funding decrease for central Brooklyn hospitals — just as they reel with financial hardship from the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Lawmakers are scrambling to put together a workable balanced state budget by April 1, and Cuomo’s untimely proposed budget cuts present the latest sticking point that threatens to derail the process.
“The proposed cuts to our hospitals in central Brooklyn are cruel, inhumane and unacceptable,” wrote State Sen. Zellnor Myrie and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson in a letter to Cuomo. “We should be providing additional aid — not austerity budgets — during this pandemic.”
The governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team included the budget reduction as part of the upcoming state budget process in order to deal with a Medicaid deficit. Statewide, the Cuomo-appointed panel recommended $400 Million in cuts to Medicaid spending — $186 Million of which would affect New York City’s public hospital system.
Central Brooklyn medical facilities such as Kings County Hospital, Brookdale University Hospital, and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center stand to lose millions in funding, which comes as they grasp for both finances and resources to deal with the massive influx of coronavirus cases descending on the borough’s hospitals.
The situation is rapidly deteriorating as cases rise, and many local politicians are worried about the financial hole that hospitals will find themselves in when the virus subsides — and the lack of preparation for future health crises.
Kings County Hospital is operating at 95 percent capacity, and washing face masks with hand sanitizer. SUNY Downstate doctors are being asked to split life-saving ventilators between patients. Brookdale is understaffed as they’ve been forced to send home essential staff who have fallen ill.
Adding to the ire of local leaders, these hospitals mainly serve low-income communities of color, and according to city data released Friday are among the regions with the highest percentages of positive COVID-19 tests.
Myrie and Richardson pointed to the governor’s own words at a press conference earlier this week, where Cuomo pledged that New York State would “fight every way we can to save every life we can.”
“We agree,” the electeds said. “As such, we cannot in good conscience accept a budget that includes these cuts.”
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment about whether the coronavirus outbreak has changed his administration’s stance on the proposed budget cuts to the state’s medical system.