Protesters rally against proposed budget cuts at Elmhurst Hospital

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (r.) joins City Council Shekar Krishnan to protest proposed budget cuts to Elmhurst Hospital.
Photo courtesy of Krishnan’s campaign

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz joined City Council candidate Shekar Krishnan, union representatives and members of the New York State Nurses Association at Elmhurst Hospital to protest Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $600 million budget cuts to public hospitals.

“Our community suffered so much during the pandemic. Our essential and frontline workers were put in harm’s way every day. Elmhurst Hospital was overrun and undersupplied, and our communities lost so many loved ones,” Cruz said. “For the executive branch to now propose cutting more than $20 million from Elmhurst Hospital’s budget is both dangerous and cruel. These cuts have been rejected by the Assembly as they will be fatal to our healthcare workers and they will be fatal to the many patients in their care. Our hospitals need more funding, not less.”

Krishnan, a community activist and civil rights lawyer specializing in fighting housing discrimination and preventing community displacement, co-founded Communities Resist, a legal services organization that addresses housing and racial justice in Queens and Brooklyn.

“It is unbelievable and irresponsible that in the midst of a global pandemic there are proposals to cut funding for our public hospitals. Elmhurst Hospital serves nearly a million residents and was the epicenter of the epicenter of the pandemic,” Krishnan said. “We cannot stand by and let our community be deprioritized and disinvested in again and again. We demand full funding for our public hospitals, expansion of the new York Cares Act, and greater support for community-based healthcare services.”

Nefritte Larkin spoke on behalf of the New York State Nursing Association which represents more than 9,000 workers in the city’s public hospital system.

“We are the frontline workers. We were here every single day and we’re still here,” Larkin said. “For Governor Cuomo to even suggest that there will be budget cuts to our safety net hospitals is a gross insult not just to the communities of color but also to the workers.”

The neighborhoods surrounding Elmhurst Hospital were ravaged by the pandemic last spring, especially in the immigrant areas of Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.

“Health disparities and inequities have existed in our community for years. I have seen firsthand the horrific impact this pandemic had on our community in Queens,” Make the Road Action member Aracely Cantos said. “Many of our community members contracted the virus and died or lost their loved ones. Underfunding of our public hospital system and the exclusion of immigrants from health insurance, have contributed to Black, brown and immigrant communities being among the hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Cantos added that now is not the time to slash resources at public hospitals but expand them.

“We need to ensure that in this year’s state budget, indigent care pool funding is directed to the true and essential safety net hospitals and instead the Medicaid reimbursement rate should only increase,” Cantos said. “Additionally, everyone, regardless of immigration status, deserves access to health insurance. The final state budget should allocate $20 million to provide temporary health insurance to low income New Yorkers who contracted COVID.”

Gerard Cadet of 1199 SEIU summed it up best.

“Many in the community lost loved ones. Many of our workers lost friends, we lost neighbors,” Cadet said. “We were heroes last year, we’re heroes this year, and we will be heroes tomorrow. So give us the resources we need to take care of our community.”

This article first appeared on our sister site, qns.com