New York has thrown away 20,000 hospital beds, complicating coronavirus fight

New York has lost a staggering 20,000 hospital beds over the last two decades to budget cuts and insurance overhauls, complicating local and state efforts to battle the coronavirus, according to records and experts.

The Empire State had 73,931 licensed hospital beds in 2000 before years of cuts and closures shrank the number to just 53,000 in 2020, according to records obtained by the New York State Nurses Association from the state Health Department and stats provided by officials.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday the health officials believe they will need anywhere between 55,000 to 110,000 hospital beds to treat the expected wave of coronavirus victims.

“New York has closed too many beds. They went too far,” said Judy Wessler, former head of the NY Commission on the Public’s Health System, about the 28 percent drop in beds.

Those cutbacks mean the state is in a significantly deeper deficit as is it searches for ways to expand its capacity to treat COVID-19 victims.

“This is going to crash the health care system,” Cuomo warned, as he again reiterated his request to President Trump that the Army Corps of Engineers be dispatched to help New York State build emergency hospital capacity.

Cuomo asked City Hall on Monday to identify 5,000 hospital beds for coronavirus patients — and the de Blasio administration responded hours later with a plan that promises to provide space for 8,300 sick New Yorkers.

The Big Apple’s Westchester and Long Island suburbs were asked to find 4,000 beds.

Officials have said the coronavirus hospital space shortage will be particularly acute for intensive care cases.

The tallies from the nurses union show the number of ICU beds in the state hasn’t budged in twenty years — there were 3,043 intensive care spots in 2000, currently there are 3,000.

In their desperate search for hospital space, Cuomo and city officials are eying converting college dorms, convention centers and sporting facilities to provide the space.

NYU sent an email to students asking them to clear out their dorm spaces after moving spring semester classes online that disclosed “there are significant indications that the State, as part of its contingency planning, is looking at university dormitories as settings for overflow beds from hospitals.”

Representatives for the university did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Additionally, city officials confirmed Tuesday they have asked state authorities if they can use Manhattan’s massive Javitz Convention Center as a medical surge facility.

Politico first reported the news late Tuesday.

The cutbacks that left New York in an even deeper hole came in waves.

In 2006, then-Gov. George Pataki’s Berger Commission recommended cutting 4,200 hospital beds to trim $1.5 billion from New York’s health-care system — those cuts were partially implemented.

Years later, Cuomo’s State University of New York nixed 500 beds in the Big Apple alone when it voted to close the money-losing Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn in 2013, which was subsequently redeveloped into housing.

SUNY argued at the time needed to make the cut to shore up its Downstate Medical Center, which is also in Brooklyn.

By 2018, the number of licensed hospital beds in New York state had dropped to 58,349.

 — Additional reporting by Selim Algar

Source: Read Full Article