How did Stephen Berger get away with closing so many hospitals? The story begins like this ....
An excerpt from Chapter 9 of Roots of Betrayal : The Ethics of Christine Quinn, available now for a free preview on Scribd :
The hospital closings called for by the Berger Commission were formulated at a time when only some hospital patients were covered by job-based health insurance, and hospitals were forced to write down the economic costs from treating underinsured and uninsured patients. The Berger Commission, headed by a Wall Street banker, Stephen Berger, was only capable of seeing the provision of full-service hospital care from perspective of profits, losses, and debts, instead of from the perspective of providing people with the human right to healthcare. “We have a history in this state of pumping money into the system and not letting hospitals close even if they should,” Mr. Berger told The New York Times, adding, “You have to right-size the system, you have to shrink it, that is No. 1.” In typical Wall Street fashion of divorcing any moral dilemma from situational ethics, hospital closings were pushed as inevitable, and patients were expected to have to deal with it. This was about a decade before "Obamacare" would extend healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. Back then, Mr. Berger observed overcapacity among hospitals, which had to be cut. However, in the future, Mr. Berger’s draconian cuts would prove to gut healthcare infrastructure leading up to the time when Obamacare would lead to a large influx of newly covered healthcare patients. But even without knowing that healthcare coverage would be expanded within the next decade, back then healthcare advocates knew about the dangers of past outbreaks, pandemics, and unforeseen uses of bioterrorism agents, such as anthrax. There were reasons why it was penny wise and dollar foolish to make drastic cuts to full-service hospital capacity in New York City.
One healthcare union, 1199/S.E.I.U., had to scramble to deal with the fallout over job losses from the impending hospital closings. Jennifer Cunningham, who at that time worked as a spokesperson and political operative for 1199 and would later go on to work for Christine as a political campaign consultant, was more concerned at the time about employee retraining and not about the interruption of patient-centered care. The hit list of hospitals that would be targeted for closure by the Berger Commission came to be known as the Berger Commission Report, and Christine, as chair of the City Council Health Committee, was largely absent from the initial public conversation in 2004 and 2005 around Mr. Berger’s recommendation for hospital closings. Taking her cue from former Speaker Gifford Miller’s precedent of maintaining silence on the controversial West Side Stadium until the project’s outcome was clear, Christine was not visible in the resistance movement to fight the Berger Commission Report’s recommendations until very late in 2006, when the City Council issued its own report just weeks before the Berger Commission Report’s final recommendations would go into effect on January 1, 2007.
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