Health Department Reports Progress on Implementation of Berger Commission Mandates

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 30, 2007) – One year after the final report of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century was presented, the majority of the affected hospitals and nursing homes are taking the steps required to meet or exceed the deadlines of the commission's mandates.

Governor Eliot Spitzer said, "Implementing the Berger Commission's recommendations is critical to making health care in New York more efficient, affordable and patient focused. We are already seeing tremendous progress with respect to implementation and beginning to feel the transformative effects."

State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said, "The Health Department has been working diligently with affected health care facilities across the state to make certain that the mandates are met by the required deadlines."

Chapter 63 of the Laws of 2005 created the Commission, also known as the Berger Commission, to "reform New York State's aging and fragile healthcare delivery system." The Commission mandates called for nearly 50 hospitals to be restructured, nine hospitals to close, and nearly 3,000 nursing home beds to be downsized. The Commissioner of Health was directed to take all steps necessary to implement the recommendations, which became law on Jan. 1, 2007 and are now considered mandates.

Three of the nine hospitals slated for closure have closed ahead of schedule: Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, St. Vincent's Midtown, and Bellevue Woman's Hospital in Schenectady. Hospital restructuring success stories include a joint governance agreement between Kingston Hospital and Benedictine Hospital in Ulster County, the start of construction on a new Orange Regional Medical Center facility, and unified governance structures between Kaleida Health System and Erie County Medical Center in Erie County and Crouse Hospital and SUNY Upstate Medical University in Onondaga County. Four facilities that were mandated to explore affiliation agreements have held extensive discussions. Though agreements were determined to not be feasible at this time, the facilities Arnot Ogden Medical Center and St. Joseph's Hospital in Chemung County, and Mount St. Mary's Hospital and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center in Niagara County, have identified initiatives they will jointly pursue.

Several long-term care facilities have begun the process of downsizing beds on or ahead of schedule. Among them, Brunswick Hospital Center in Suffolk County has closed all of its 94 beds, Mount View Health Facility in Niagara County is planning to close its 172 beds before the end of the year and Taylor Care Center in Westchester County is on target to reduce 140 beds.

"Although the Commission's mandates created many challenges, they are necessary to the future strength and vitality of the health care system in New York State," Commissioner Daines said. "Given the efforts on the part of the impacted facilities and the progress made since the recommendations were first announced, I am confident that we will reach full compliance by the June 30, 2008 deadline".

Funds in the amount of $550 million in Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers (HEAL-NY) and Federal-State Health Reform Partnership (F-SHRP) have been made available to assist facilities with their implementation activities. To date, the Health Department has announced $362.3 million in awards, with the balance expected to be announced shortly.

A listing of Berger-affected institutions and their status is attached.