As Stony Brook University prepares for the next round of budget cuts, priced around $10 million, its medical center is facing something a little more severe—the complete withdrawal of state-aid.
Under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s most recent budget proposal, Stony Brook’s Medical Center is slated to lose all $55 million received in state-subsidies. That’s not including an additional $10 million cut from a proposed statewide $3 billion reduction of Medicaid.
“We use that money to provide the programs that nobody else provides, to support the undercompensated patients—the patients that don’t have anywhere else to turn,” said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, Dean of Stony Brook’s Medical School, referring to the hospital’s emergency psychiatric ward, burn center and a Level I trauma center.
Kaushanksy proudly stated that these services are the only one of its kind in all of Suffolk County and that SBUMC covers roughly $86 million spent in indigent care, or patients taken in without health insurance and do not apply for Medicare or Medicaid. It’s these facts and figures that administrative directors are presenting to their local legislators in hopes of swaying the vote.
Cuomo’s $154-million cost saving plan to cut all state-support to all of New York’s public teaching hospitals, which also includes Downstate Medical in Brooklyn and Upstate Medical in Syracuse, are in part an attempt to chip away at the state’s looming $10 billion deficit.
“‘Cut’ is not even the right word—it’s a complete elimination,” says Assemblyman Steve Englebright, a democrat who represents the Stony Brook area in the Fourth District. “To remove all state support and subsidy is a completely unreal proposal because the hospital has such obligations as to run a medical school, a dental school, a nursing program, a burn center, a cancer center—all of these are public, not private,” said the former Stony Brook Geology professor and alum.
Questions and criticism have also been raised for the role of North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital President and CEO Michael Dowling in Cuomo’s administration. Once a healthcare advisor to former Governor Mario Cuomo, Dowling runs the same hospital chain that is heavily involved in the development of Hofstra University’s new medical school. Dowling co-chairs Cuomo’s Medicaid team.
Kaushansky declined to comment on what many view as a conflict-of-interest, but was accepting of Hofstra’s new medical school. “There’s little question that we need more doctors in the U.S. whether it’s primary care, general physicians or pediatricians,” the recently appointed Dean said. “We need more medical schools that deliver high quality care in the U.S. [and] I actually welcome them.”
In 2009, SBUMC experienced a 90 percent occupancy rate with more than 80,000 emergency visits and roughly 227,000 outpatient visits. Additionally, roughly $90 million was spent on research, mainly acquired through a variety of grants. This all took place with a staff of a little more than 5,500 employees and 1,000 physicians, half of whom are full-time. But these numbers may very soon decrease, as would the services the hospital provides.
“I don’t want to limit the patients who knock on our door for healthcare,” said Kaushanksy, who added that after years of budgetary dieting, there is little fat to be cut from the hospital budget. “Everyone in my opinion deserves the best healthcare, but if we are to remain open we are going to have to think about that.”