Thursday, May 10, 2007

Legislators Ask to Revise Plan for Hospitals

Tuscaloosa News

NOBODY IS WILLING TO BITE THE BULLET AND DO WHAT HAS TO GET DONE AS FAR AS CONTAINING SURGING MEDICAL COSTS IN THIS STATE...IT IS OUT OF HAND....NOW THAT THE GENERAL ELECTION IS OVER....THE LEGISLATURE WANTS TO REVERSE THE GOOD DEED IT HAS ACCOMPLISHED......DYSFUNCTIONAL FITS THIS GROUP TO A TEE.......SPITZER IS RIGHT IN STANDING FIRM AND SAYINGNO.....ANDY


ALBANY, May 9 — The Republican and Democratic leaders of the State Legislature said Wednesday that they wanted Gov. Eliot Spitzer to reconsider a plan approved last year to close, merge or shrink dozens of hospitals across the state. The comments by Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, and Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, came during and after a public meeting that Mr. Spitzer convened to identify legislation that might win approval before the end of the legislative session in six weeks. While they disagreed on some other issues, Mr. Bruno and Mr. Silver appeared to agree when it came to hospital closings, an issue so contentious and polarizing in Albany that lawmakers created a commission to handle it. Last year, that commission — formally called the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century — proposed a sweeping reorganization of the state’s hospitals through closings, mergers, downsizing, the elimination of some services, and the addition of others. The plan elicited sharp criticism from hospital executives and local elected officials, who pledged to fight it. But Mr. Spitzer, then the governor-elect, said he supported the plan, and the State Legislature, despite some grumbling, allowed it to take effect. On Wednesday, however, Mr. Bruno said the commission’s recommendations were up for reconsideration. “We have to look at the ramifications of what we did and correct it,” he said. “We’re governing here on a daily basis. You don’t govern once a year.” Mr. Silver said that his members were unhappy with some of the recommendations of the commission, and that it “should not be the end-all and the be-all.” He also said that key Assembly lawmakers were in discussions with the state Department of Health regarding modifying some of the commission’s proposals, for example, by keeping open some hospitals that would have been closed and by reconfiguring some mergers so that other hospitals could continue to offer specific kinds of care. Some of the hospitals under discussion, Mr. Silver said, are in Buffalo, Syracuse, Stony Brook and Brooklyn. Ultimately, he said, the Legislature would need to approve a new law for some of the changes. “The governor has indicated we should have these conversations with the Health Department and go forward and see what we can do,” Mr. Silver said. But at a news conference later in the day, Mr. Spitzer suggested that those discussions were fairly limited in scope. “I don’t think the Berger commission recommendations will be reversed or revised,” he said, referring to the commission by the name of its chairman, Stephen Berger. “The issue now is implementing the Berger commission recommendations in a way that shows sensitivity to the communities affected in terms of the continuity of care, in terms of the financing of institutions and job retention that is affected thereby.” Mr. Spitzer and leaders of the Legislature did find some common ground. They agreed to tackle a law on where to build power plants, legislation to overhaul state authorities, and Mr. Spitzer’s proposal to have healthier food at schools. But the meeting, though cordial, also betrayed lingering disagreements over some major issues and legislation, not limited to hospital closings. As he has often done in the past few weeks, Mr. Bruno again made clear — somewhat impatiently this time — that he did not share the governor’s top priority, stricter campaign finance laws. “I would recommend we move past that because it’s going to bog us down,” Mr. Bruno said. Later in the day, Mr. Spitzer, however, held a news conference with government watchdog groups to renew his call for campaign finance changes. One of Mr. Bruno’s own priorities, reinstating the death penalty for those who murder law enforcement officers, in turn got a lukewarm reception from Mr. Silver, who said that the state’s past experiment with capital punishment was a failure. But the areas of agreement, if overshadowed by the disagreements, were still significant. Absence of a law on the location of power plants has made it impossible to build new ones for years, despite New Yorkers’ growing appetite for electricity. And the state’s secretive public authorities have been an enduring source of scandal, waste and fraud. The leaders also spoke about the need to overhaul the Wicks Law, which requires school districts and others to hire at least four contractors for big construction jobs, a rule that many school officials say drives up building costs. Mr. Spitzer also said he would look with Mr. Bruno for ways to provide more capital investment upstate. Later in the day, the governor and the Legislature announced completion of a long-awaited economic deal under which Sematech, a major consortium of semiconductor and nanotechnology companies, is setting up a headquarters in Albany in exchange for $300 million in state assistance. But not before a few barbed lines were traded about Albany’s climate, political and otherwise. “Look at the sky today; it’s a gorgeous day out there,” Mr. Spitzer said after urging Mr. Bruno to pass a campaign finance bill. “It’s going to rain tomorrow,” Mr. Bruno replied.

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