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Hospitals fear future of health care

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Hospitals fear future of health care
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Federal and state cuts to health care are throwing hospitals for a loop and they’re trying to make up the difference. Many hospitals in Upstate New York, like Faxton St. Luke's in New Hartford, have been forced to cut numerous staff positions. And other medical centers say they're barely holding on. Our Cara Thomas spoke with officials from the St. Elizabeth Medical Center about the future of health care.

UTICA, N.Y. -- A few decades ago, hospital officials say there were more than 7,500 hospitals across the country. Today, there are only 5,000 left.

Richard Ketcham, CEO of the St. Elizabeth Medical Center, said, “I have never in my entire career seen a more challenging time in a hospital than it is right now. I am very, very concerned, not just here, but the whole country.”

In an effort to make cuts to the federal and state budget, government officials have cut rates to health care, specifically Medicare and Medicaid, which is a main source of income for medical centers. Upstate New York has been hit especially hard, given the high number of senior citizens and low income patients they see.

“In our hospital, it’s about 60 percent of our inpatients are on Medicare. Nationally, it’s about 45 percent because of the percent of older people in Upstate New York,” said Ketcham.

But a lack of income from the government isn’t a hospital’s only problem. Many times, people come into the ER with no insurance at all. And each year, millions of dollars are lost as a result.

“When they come to the ER and expect to be treated, we want to do that, that’s our mission. But it still has to be paid," said Ketcham. "Our doctors and our ER nurses expect to be paid. Understandably so.”

Hospital officials say they fear the future of health care. They say if something doesn’t change, hospitals will continue to close and the quality of care will diminish.

“That’s one of the reasons Faxton St. Luke’s and us are talking. Can we form some sort of an affiliation that can both improve quality and reduce cost? We hope and we think we can," said Ketcham.

Hospital officials say they don’t have an answer to the problem. So for now, they’re looking at all their options in order to stay afloat.

Two hospitals in Central New York have already had to make significant cuts. Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare in New Hartford announced that 37 positions were being cut, 27 of those were vacant. Crouse Hospital in Syracuse has made more than 80 position cuts over the last few months.

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