Health Commissioner Announces Aid to Improve Primary Care Services in Schenectady County

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 2, 2007) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today announced the Health Department will award two state grants to provide better access to primary health care for low-income residents of Schenectady County. Under the Berger Commission's mandate to make primary care more accessible in the most clinically appropriate setting, the Health Department will provide a $400,000 grant to the Hometown Health Clinic and a $100,000 grant to the Schenectady Free Health Clinic.

As part of a comprehensive approach to addressing the county's health care needs, the Health Department also announced that it will join with the State Dormitory Authority to provide St. Clare's Hospital with a $3 million loan to help maintain services.

"The Berger Commission mandates for hospital-based care presents a significant restructuring of health care in Schenectady County, but also provides a unique opportunity to utilize existing providers' strengths to improve access to care," said Commissioner Daines, referring to the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century. "Thoughtful planning and restructuring will take additional time, but providing continued support to our existing network of health care providers will help address gaps in services until a more comprehensive plan is put in place. Hometown Health Clinic and the Free Health Clinic have played an important role in the region's health care, and their continued work will help us move to a more-permanent solution for the region."

Governor Eliot Spitzer said, "Local clinics are integral to meeting our goal of providing New Yorkers with better care at a cost that we can afford. These clinics have provided good care to those in need, and I'm pleased that they will be part of the comprehensive restructuring that is happening in Schenectady County."

While the Berger mandates most clearly affected hospitals in Schenectady, substantial restructuring remains to be done. "A significant first step in the improvement of the county's health-care system was this week's assumption by Ellis Hospital of the services of Bellevue Woman's Hospital," Dr. Daines said. "Any discussion of improving ambulatory health care would have to include key outpatient health care providers, such as Hometown Health Clinic, the Schenectady Free Clinic and St. Clare's Hospital."

Dr. Daines said, "St. Clare's Hospital plays a key role in delivering primary health care in Schenectady County through its emergency room and its outpatient department. Services have to continue to be provided at the St Clare's campus, but should be revamped to more appropriately meet patient needs."

Commissioner Daines said, "This is a unique opportunity to pull together health care providers in Schenectady to implement the Berger recommendations and reshape the system for the better for everyone in Schenectady County."

The St. Clare's loan will be administered by the state Health Department and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.