By LOUIS FLORES
Just days after WNBC Channel 4 News investigative journalist Chris Glorioso broadcast a scandalous report, drawing attention to $1.2 billion in federal Hurricane Sandy assistance that was given to NYU Langone Medical Center, whilst neighboring Bellevue Hospital received only $117 million, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced a $1.6 billion Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to four New York City public hospitals, including Bellevue.
Mr. Glorioso's report follows a report published two months ago in which Progress Queens similarly questioned why NYU could receive over $1 billion in federal Hurricane Sandy financial assistance, but no provision could be made for other safety net hospitals, which NYU and other medical centers relied upon, to receive overflow and transfer patients when major hospitals suffered structural and flooding damage from Hurricane Sandy.
The WNBC report questioned why such a wealthy and politically well-connected hospital as NYU would receive $1 billion more than Bellevue, when NYU has an army of wealthy private donors, whilst Bellevue is consigned to treat many of the city's uninsured patients, incurring, partly as a result, financial deficits. The stark financial disparities between the two hospitals inspired the producers of the WNBC report to superimpose the phrase, "A Tale of Two Hospitals," over much of the report's segment.
Kenny Langone, a top NYU official and a mega-bundler of donations to the Republican Party, has in the past organized campaign contribution fundraisers for Sen. Schumer, who, in turn, it was believed, placed NYU's Hurricane Sandy financial assistance on a fast-track, raising ethical questions.
The WNBC report followed the activism of Ann Bové, R.N., from the New York State Nurses Association, as she confronted Sen. Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), over what Nurse Bové said she believed was "unwarranted and unfair" preferential treatment that awarded NYU so much money in Hurricane Sandy financial assistance, whilst neglecting New York City's public hospitals.
"I find it inexcusable," said Nurse Bové in the WNBC report.
The four public hospitals sharing in the $1.6 billion in federal assistance are : Bellevue and Metropolitan Hospital, both in Manhattan ; Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn ; and Coler Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island.
As a result of devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, many hospitals were damaged, flooded, and lost power, resulting in emergency patient evacuations, including at Bellevue, NYU, and Coney Island hospitals. One hospital that survived Hurricane Sandy was Long Island College Hospital, or LICH, but LICH was recently closed by efforts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) to continue making draconian healthcare cuts in the state's budget to avoid instituting a progressive income tax on the state's wealthiest 1%. Public health regulations from federal, state, and city regulatory authorities mandate emergency and disaster preparedness, and the closure of LICH, as well as 12 other full-service hospitals since 2006, have outraged healthcare advocates, who are concerned that New York City is not fully prepared for a mass civilian casualty or pandemic response.
For years, public health advocates, hospital employees, and community activists have fought a losing battle since 2006 to save 13 full-service hospitals from closings in New York City alone. The $1.6 billion grant to New York City's pubic hospitals is being earmarked to help the hospitals become storm-proof, according to a report by NY1. Nonetheless, Nurse Bové's activism and Mr. Glorioso's report marked the first time in nearly a decade when the government has responded by increasing funding for the city's beleaguered public hospitals.
After 12 hospitals closed in New York City under the administration of former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, activists pointed to her failure in leadership in the realm of public health as one of the reasons former Speaker Quinn was voted out of office last year. In the wake of former Speaker Quinn's failures, former Public Advocate Bill de Blasio campaigned for mayor by promising to put a stop to the hospital closings. After LICH closed in Brooklyn on Mayor de Blasio's watch, voters were quick to fault the mayor for his false campaign promises, leading to last September's primary election loss of Peter Sikora, a political operative with close ties to Mayor de Blasio's machinations to exploit LICH, in the 52nd State Assembly District race in Brooklyn that encompasses LICH.
Except for Nurse Bové's and Mr. Glorioso's win, the non-stop failure by the government to answer voters' demands to protect community hospitals as strategic community resources has led to widespread disillusionment by the electorate. Voters have figured out that that the system is rigged. Government reform activists believe that the only reason Nurse Bové and Mr. Glorioso were able to alter the financial course of four of New York City's public hospitals was because Sen. Schumer was shamed before New York City voters in a way that few elected officials are ever held accountable for government failures.
The angry electorate is hungry for an overhaul of the broken political system that never gives the voters what they want. Besides voting former Speaker Quinn out of office, voters put Gov. Cuomo's reëlection campaign through the meat grinder. Now, word is spreading that other neoliberal Democrats, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Napa Valley), face political unrest as the Democratic base increases their expectations and demands of nonresponsive elected leaders. Sen. Schumer must be fearful that he will be primaried when he again runs for reëlection in 2016.