Today’s news:

Lancman slams health cuts

The Kissena Park Civic Association hosted a community forum last Thursday evening on the negative effects Gov. David Paterson’s proposed budget would have on the eroding Queens health care system.

The discussion, led by state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and the Continuing Care Leadership Coalition, centered on the effects proposed new cuts would have on continuing care facilities, nursing homes and hospitals and how they would affect the community at large.

“This budget would once again be balanced on the backs of our health care facilities,” Lancman said. “Where are the budget cuts coming from? They’re going to come from the people who work in those health care facilities. The numbers are staggering.”

The coalition estimates that New York City would lose $94 million in annual health funding under the proposed budget and that $16 million of that loss would come from Queens, leading to 400 lost health-sector jobs.

These new cuts would come on the tail of years of major state cuts to health programs, including slashes of $1 billion from nursing homes and $200 million to home care between April 2007 and November 2009, according to Diane Barrett, director of government relations for the coalition.

The anticipated fallout is clear: more closed facilities even in the wake of dozens of nursing home and continuing care facility closing in the past decade despite increased demand, Barrett said. About 36,000 patients are treated annually in Queens nursing homes and 16,000 people are employed by them.

Florence Johnson, a lead organizer for the Health Care Education Project about how the spending cuts will hurt the borough’s hospitals, an issue which has become more acute since the fall 2008 closing of Parkway Hospital and the winter 2009 closings of Mary Immaculate and St. John’s Queens hospitals.

She said the quality and efficiency emergency rooms, patient care and other aspects of hospital operations and service would be greatly diminished under the proposal.

Johnson ended the meeting with a call to action for community members to write their elected officials and do anything else within their power to try to block the funding decreases.

“It’s up to us to stop these cuts from happening. If we don’t do something, it’s going to happen,” she said.

Homi Cooper, a Kissena Park resident who attended the meeting, agreed that the community and politicians need to further examine the downsides of such cuts before deciding whether to make them.

“We want to see the statistics. What is the basis, what is the root cause of the cuts? We want to see how many patients per hour, how many patients per doctor, how long are they waiting?” he said. “Currently, there is no fat to trim. Where’s the beef?”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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