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Hospital Crisis - State Urged to Merge

January 30, 2007

Three state hospitals would be privatized, and many other hospitals would be closed, under a controversial plan proposed by the Berger Commission. But speaking today in Albany, Bill Scheuerman with United University Professions says there's a win-win solution -- merge some of the failing hospitals with SUNY teaching schools, to provide better health care and more opportunities for the state's future doctors.

"If we have to change governance, let's look at the private schools that are struggling and see if we can bring them into SUNY, increase our offerings of tertiary care, and do an even better job training doctors, particularly out in western New York."

The Berger Commission report recommended privatizing the state's teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, on Long Island and in Syracuse. Independent studies show those hospitals are well-run and Scheuerman believes privatizing them will reduce services and the quality of teaching at SUNY medical schools.

In Buffalo, SUNY has a medical school with no hospital, and Scheuerman thinks it would make sense to try to merge one of the troubled private hospitals in the area into the State University system.

"SUNY should be at the table in that restructuring and maybe we can pick up one of the weaker hospitals there, put some state funds into it and use it to train doctors, because we don't have a hospital even though we have a medical school."

The Berger Commission recommended merging Upstate Medical University with Crouse, a private hospital that's just coming out of bankruptcy. Scheuerman says Crouse should be merged into SUNY.

"It's actually cheaper to do this because you don't have to do buyouts of pensions and all those other things, to bring Crouse into the State University; it's probably a good idea fiscally, and in terms of patient services, a good idea to do that."

It's a very different direction than the one proposed by the Commission.

Michael Clifford/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - NY