U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is seeking additional federal funding to help hospitals stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis.
Schumer, D-NY, visited Yates County’s Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital last week as part of a push for his three-pronged plan to get hospitals more federal support. His plan calls for more funding from the Schumer-created $175 billion Provider Relief Fund, improvements to the Medicare loans program and demanding more support for COVID-19 testing.
As part of the plan, Schumer called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to allocate the remaining roughly $60 billion it has available for the Provider Relief Fund, as well as improvements to the Medicare Advanced and Accelerated Payments, which are loans that help hospitals with cash flow. The loans have “onerous” interest rates and repayment terms that Schumer said will “severely hurt” hospitals in the long run. Finally, Schumer is requesting additional testing dollars to help hospitals such as Soldiers & Sailors, which have been saddled with new costs due to requirements that staff be routinely tested.
“The doctors, nurses and staff at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital have made incredible sacrifices throughout this pandemic, putting public health above profit and working ceaselessly to help Yates County and the Finger Lakes beat back the virus and flatten the curve,” Schumer said. “Despite these incredible sacrifices, Soldier & Sailors has not yet received enough of the federal emergency aid that I specifically negotiated into the CARES Act and fought for in the interim “Corona 3.5” package for them.”
Schumer argued that his three-pronged approach is necessary as a series of funding issues have plagued Soldiers & Sailors and each issue must be addressed in order to sufficiently support hospital operations. Soldiers & Sailors, for example, is facing $3 million in losses by the end of the year, despite receiving $3.5 million in HHS’ Rural Hospital funding.
Soldiers & Sailors also has been wary of Medicare Advanced and Accelerated Payments, as the loan program has prohibitively high-interest rates that would severely hurt the hospital in the coming weeks, Schumer noted. The Penn Yan hospital estimates it will incur $41,000 in unbudgeted testing costs by December.
The lack of federal support, Schumer said, has forced Finger Lakes Health and Soldiers & Sailors Hospital to take additional costs, leading to staff cuts. Soldiers & Sailors has eliminated 50 positions and anticipates another 20 layoffs if more funding is not received, officials said.
“We are grateful to Sen. Schumer for his service and for visiting Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital. It is our privilege to serve our community as part of Finger Lakes Health and especially as a federally-deemed Critical Access Hospital,” said Jose Acevedo, president and CEO of Finger Lakes Health. “I am so proud of our staff and providers who have demonstrated compassion, care, expertise and dedication while caring for patients and residents during this global pandemic.”
Finger Lakes Health’s facilities are spread throughout the region and include Soldiers & Sailors and Geneva General Hospital, four long-term care facilities, eight primary care physician practices, an ambulatory surgery center, two urgent care locations and six specialty care practices.
“There have been significant cost burdens which we have experienced associated with this pandemic, including the significant costs for personal protective equipment, screening and testing employees and other measures,” Acevedo said. “We appreciate Sen. Schumer’s and other legislators’ work on behalf of healthcare providers to advocate for relief as we focus on the critical mission to care for our communities.”
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