New Yorkers assume that living here gives them access to the best hospitals. They’re in dreamland. Though a few institutions earn high marks — think NewYork-Presbyterian — overall hospitals in the state are among the worst in the nation, according to Medicare data. Forty-eight out of 151 graded hospitals received a rock-bottom one-star rating.
We endure hospitals with infection rates worse than the national average. Why? Because the Greater New York Hospital Association and other industry trade groups write huge checks to Albany politicians.
State health bureaucrats and their boss, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, sell out to the highest bidder. Patient advocates pushing for cleaner hospitals and better care don’t stand a chance.
GNYHA has given more than $5 million to state political parties since 2014, and millions more to political action committees for specific candidates. Not to mention the staggering $48 million a year the health-care industry in New York spends on lobbying to get politicians’ attention.
The pols constantly up the ante. In August of 2018, as Cuomo battled a primary challenger, his campaign called on GNYHA to give more, according to New York Times reporting. GNYHA obliged with more than $1 million to a Democratic Party account controlled by the governor. Cuomo soon hiked the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates, worth $140 million to hospitals.
GNYHA’s president, Ken Raske, gets paid $8 million a year. For what? Not inventing a cure or treating patients. Just twisting pols’ arms. Raske is often seated at the governor’s table at fundraisers.
No wonder state officials do the hospital industry’s bidding, allowing hospitals to rack up the lowest average quality rating in the nation, according to New York’s Empire Center.
The latest outrage is the state Department of Health’s refusal to disclose which hospitals have been invaded by Candida auris, a new killer superbug. All hospitals struggle with infections, but this is the deadliest. A staggering 45 percent of hospital patients who contract it die within 90 days.
Once Candida auris enters a hospital, it spreads invisibly, contaminating floors, curtains, beds, door knobs and medical equipment. It gets on other patients’ skin, making them carriers.
New research unveiled last week at the Infectious Disease Society of America documents how one infected patient at a Southern California facility led to 180 other patients becoming carriers.
You don’t want to be in a hospital room where a previous patient had the bug. Patients choosing a hospital would want to avoid it. Yet despite requests from patient advocates and media, state officials refuse to reveal which hospitals are affected. The nonprofit Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, which I lead, filed a Freedom of Information Law request in May. We got nowhere.
The state releases data annually on which hospitals have Staph and other routine infections. But not Candida auris. State health officials seem more worried about Candida auris killing hospital business than killing you.
To be fair, all states are staying mum about it. Officials say they are afraid people won’t seek care if they know about the danger, but in New York City, with its 50 hospitals to choose from, that’s a ridiculous claim — and half the cases in the entire nation are here. New Yorkers need the information.
In 2017, the state recorded 100 Candida auris infections. Now the figure has nearly quadrupled. Plus, hundreds more patients have picked up the bug on their skin and are carriers.
In May, staff from 60 hospitals and the GNYHA met with state health officials about the alarming spread. Brad Hutton, DOH deputy commissioner, warned that “we are at a point where our response strategy needs to change.”
Then came foot dragging. GNYHA’s Zeynep Sumer King said hospitals raised concerns at the meeting about changes they’re being asked to make. Months later, they are still dithering over the strategy and whether it will be mandated or voluntary. Meanwhile, patients die, the superbug spreads and the public is kept in the dark. In Albany, money talks.
Betsy McCaughey is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a former lieutenant governor of New York.
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