CARMEL, N.Y. - Putnam Hospital Center (PNC) workers and nurses came together Thursday (March 7) for a rally to condemn proposed Medicaid budget cuts they say could drastically impact patient care at the facility.

More than 100 workers from the New York State Nurses Association and United Healthcare Workers East, along with hospital administrators, gathered in the atrium of the hospital to express concern over what they called “Draconian cuts” to Medicaid.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2019-20 budget calls for $550 million in cuts to Medicaid. And due to federal matching funds that support Medicaid, hospital officials project a total statewide loss of $1.1 billion, which they said would “devastate the ability of hospitals, health systems and nursing homes to provide quality services to their patients and communities.”

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Health Quest, which owns PNC, would stand to lose about $4 million over two years at its three New York medical facilities, which include Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Putnam Hospital Center and Northern Dutchess Hospital, if the budget cuts were enacted.

Putnam Hospital Center President Peter Kelly said the budget cuts could have an impact on the services that PNC provides.

“There would be a reduction in the million-plus-dollar range of revenue [for PNC],” he said of the cuts. “The potential for services being cut is there. We are fortunate in that we are conscious in making sure our budgets are balanced, but any time you take a million-plus dollars out of your budget you have to rethink things. Any [reduction in revenue] means hospitals have to make cuts somewhere.

“Over a billion dollars would come out of the healthcare program in New York State.,” he added. “It’s going to impact every hospital. Here, at Putnam, we have less of a Medicaid population, but we have one nonetheless and it would impact us.”

Kelly said residents in PNC’s area need to let lawmakers know how they feel about the cuts.

“It is important that we make sure that our legislators understand how important this is and that healthcare providers are united in this respect,” he said.

Greg Speller, executive vice president of the United Healthcare Workers East, said that though the union and the hospital often have their differences, they are united on this front.

“This is where we stand on common ground,” he told Mahopac News. “These cuts are not smart, and they are not good for our patients or the members of our community. We need these services.”

Speller echoed Kelly’s sentiments in that residents need to let Albany know that they don’t want to see the hospital’s services curtailed.

“We have petitions for elected officials, we have an email set up where people can just plug in their zip code and send an email to their officials in Albany,” he said. “We have social media where everything is going these days. We have a lot of opportunities where people can come in and express their concerns about these proposed cuts.”

Speller said he believes that sometimes people don’t always appreciate what the healthcare workers do until they’re needed.

“[Patients] come in here pretty vulnerable at times and we take care of them. Sometimes we make it look so seamless and they go home healthy,” he told the crowd. “But that’s being missed by our elected officials right now, at least those who have proposed these cuts. These cuts really cut us to the bone. It’s not right.

“I could go through a list of the 379 [PNC workers] and talk about their value to the patients in our community,” he added. “I could talk about the management teams here and list off the same things: Here’s the value they add to you as a person or to a loved one you have coming into this facility. That’s what is threatened by these proposed cuts.”

Nicole Lynch, a patient-care technician at the hospital, said she depends on the hospital for her livelihood but worries about her patients as well.

“We work very hard in this hospital. These cuts are going to make it harder for me to do my job and support my family,” she said. “Harder for the nurses to take care of the patients; for the techs to take care of the patients. Cuts, no matter where they are, are just going to hurt patient satisfaction. I love my job, but we can’t take these cuts.”

Gail Johnson, a PNC respiratory therapist for 19 years, said the hospital staff and her patients were like a family to her and the cuts would be devastating.

“The people I work with are my family; my patients are like my family,” she said. “This hospital is so important for the care of my family and they come to depend on us for their care. I work with a team of amazing people—doctors, nurses, radiologists—the care these patients are receiving is beyond excellent. They come to expect it from us.

“It’s very important that this money not be cut from the budget,” she added. “It will affect the patients and they need the healthcare here. Make your voices heard… our lawmakers need to hear us.”