Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded with Washington yesterday for emergency help to keep Brooklyn's long-troubled hospital network alive.
Send money -- now! -- they told the feds.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services should comply -- with some conditions attached to ensure the patient's full rehabilitation.
There's no doubt Brooklyn needs urgent help. About 25 percent of the borough's residents now lack access to primary health care. Their plight would grow far worse if Interfaith and Long Island College hospitals -- which have dodged death for weeks -- finally shut their doors.
That's because the emergency rooms at those hospitals are the first points of access to the health care system for about 250,000 people. To leave so many in the lurch -- without clear options for care -- is unthinkable.
Cuomo and de Blasio want HHS to hand the state about $10 billion -- in return for $17 billion in Medicaid costs they say New York has helped Washington save. Other states have made similar arrangements.
About $1 billion of this would go to Brooklyn.
But here's the sticking point. HHS has been dawdling over this deal -- called a Medicaid waiver -- for about 18 months. The feds apparently are worried that New York won't do what it must to build a competitive system.
Much of the activism to save Interfaith and LICH has been aimed at saving the hospitals as they now stand and also saving jobs. Neither goal is realistic. The hospitals will need to lose beds and enlarge outpatient facilities. They will need to share some services with other facilities and focus on specific tasks like emergency care or primary care. They must consolidate capacity. Cuomo and de Blasio acknowledged the necessity of these changes yesterday. But downsizing can get tricky. No neighborhood wants to lose jobs. No politician wants to anger health care unions.
To get the money fast, Cuomo and de Blasio must quickly show HHS how Brooklyn's system can be saved and streamlined. No use rebuilding the same broken machine.