Hopes are waning that Ulster County will receive a federal designation that would boost government healthcare reimbursements for Kingston and Benedictine hospitals. The company that operates the two hospitals in Kingston says one of the facilities may have to close. Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas has an update...
Officials say the problem facing the hospitals has to do with Ulster County's MSA - Metropolitian Statistical Area - and the way it differs from the MSA that Dutchess and Orange counties have. Ulster County Legislature Chair Terry Bernardo notes that in the area of prevailing wage, Kingston falls under the New York City area. Some County Legislators think the lack of high-industry jobs has weakened the local economy since IBM pulled out 16 years ago.
The Daily Freeman newspaper reports that HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley president and CEO David Lundquist said that Ulster County's failing to get the MSA change has cost the company some $10 million annually in lost reimbursements, and that if Ulster County was in the same MSA as Dutchess and Orange, it wouldn’t be necessary to consider closing one the hospitals. Neither Lundquist nor Cynthia Lowe, chairwoman of the HealthAlliance Board of Directors, returned calls for comment.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey has for years asked lawmakers to change Ulster County's same MSA designation - Jeff Lieberson is a spokesman for the Congressman: he says that since the House is under Republican control, it's not likely the measure will be taken up again anytime soon, but Hinchey carries on with the fight.
Terry Bernardo is taking the battle to another level, she's written US Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, asking for them to intervene. Bernardo has not yet heard back from either Senator .
Over the weekend, State assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who assisted in a 2007 restructuring that saved Kingston and Benedictine hospitals from closing, has offered to facilitate an "open and public process for development of plans for the potential restructuring" of HealthAlliance.
HealthAlliance has not said which of the two hospitals may close, or a date as to when it would occur. A decision by the company’s board of directors in expected in the next several weeks.