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NY’s Cuomo pleases crowds with ‘Hero Compensation Fund’ for healthcare workers… after 9 years of hospital cuts

NY’s Cuomo pleases crowds with ‘Hero Compensation Fund’ for healthcare workers… after 9 years of hospital cuts
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched a fund to support sick healthcare workers and their families, but some blame him for the dire working conditions facing the state’s caregivers after nine years of hospital budget cuts.

Cuomo announced the state is working on a “Covid-19 Heroes Compensation Fund” to support healthcare workers and their families who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus during his daily briefing on Friday. It was heralded by his growing Democratic fan club as a generous, thoughtful move from a politician who cares about the “frontline workers.”

AAbsent from the lovefest was any mention of how the governor had, just the previous day, deferred two-percent pay raises to 80,000 state workers for 90 days, and potentially for longer. Many of those affected are healthcare workers in the state’s prisons and mental health facilities.

Union leaders were outraged. “It’s inexcusable to require our workers to literally face death to ensure the state keeps running and then turn around and deny those very workers their much-deserved raise in this time of crisis,” Civil Service Employees Association president Mary Sullivan told the Times Union, while NY Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association chief Michael Powers called the postponement a “slap in the face” to workers facing “some of the most dangerous conditions in the state.”

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While Cuomo is being praised for his leadership amid the coronavirus outbreak, the problems he is scrambling to solve are largely of his own making. Although aware of a 2015 report highlighting the desperately depleted state stockpile of ventilators, he didn’t take any actions on it, and has spent his tenure shuttering and downsizing hospitals across the state, mostly those serving low-income clients. The state has eliminated 20,000 hospital beds in the last two decades, at least half under his leadership. 

The New York state budget passed at the beginning of the month included deep cuts to Medicaid and may have rendered the state ineligible for $6 billion in federal aid, infuriating liberal lawmakers who were less enchanted with the new #Resistance hero. State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) told the New York Daily News that Cuomo’s latest budget “only offered harsh austerity for the poorest and most vulnerable” New Yorkers.

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The state’s Democrat-controlled senate called on Cuomo to tax the wealthy – New York has the highest economic inequality in the country, and a tax on the richest .01 percent has upwards of 90 percent approval among voters – only to be turned down by the politician who has earned the nickname ‘Governor One Percent’.

The latest cost-cutting moves resulted in New York City being forced to shoulder $200 million in Medicaid costs when the Big Apple is at the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak. 

The pandemic has hospitals so understaffed that NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation has apparently been reduced to contracting dodgy medical-temp agencies – one, Kansas-based disaster-staffing group Krucial Staffing, was sued earlier this week for luring out-of-state medical professionals to work in city hospitals under false pretenses, promising them cushy posts with ample protective equipment and no Covid-19 exposure – to fill vacancies. The suit alleges Krucial’s misrepresentation of working conditions placed healthcare workers’ medical licenses and lives in danger.

It’s unclear how many medical workers have contracted and died of the disease in the state, as New York, along with several other states, does not track infections among medical staff. According to a BuzzFeed News review of the reports by 12 states, which made their data public, at least 5,400 nurses and doctors tested positive nationwide, while dozens have succumbed to the lethal illness. Among them was Kious Kelly, an assistant nurse manager at Mount Sinai West, whose death from the coronavirus on March 24 sparked protests among the personnel and led to the hospital eventually allowing workers to receive tests – but only those already showing symptoms.  

Some 7,887 New Yorkers have died with coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak, the majority of them (5,820) in New York City.

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