Hurricane Sandy spells good business for some hospitals, burdens for others

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With four New York hospitals still closed following Hurricane Sandy, surrounding hospitals are both burdened and profiting from the recent shut downs, Kaiser Health News, NPR and WNYC reported.

Bellevue Hospital Center, Manhattan VA Medical Center, Coney Island Hospital and, most notably, NYU Langone Medical Center have been closed for three weeks since the hurricane, and nearby hospitals have absorbed the patient loads. Although some hospitals report initial financial shortfalls from caring for extra uninsured or Medicaid patients, others anticipate gaining profits from more inpatient procedures, KHN reported.

Patients from NYU Lagone, which had 2,700 inpatient procedures per month before the storm, may be a cash cow for other hospitals. For instance, with a new cardiac electrophysiology center that opened up in September, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital's number of procedures increased from about 12 to 18 a week.

Still, others are strapped as is and worry about the possibility of a public health crisis.

"If we were to have a significant flu season over the winter time, that would further hamper our ability to respond," New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center CEO Steven Corwin said.

Although some providers might not like to think about it, even the amount of reserve beds for public emergencies has business costs. With pressures to control cost from Washington legislators, surge capacity for many hospitals is a luxury they can't afford, according to Herbert Pardes, vice chairman of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

"Until we resolve this question of how many hospital beds to hold in reserve, we will face continued pressure to eliminate them with every budget cycle--as well as the pressure to eliminate many other necessary programs," he wrote in yesterday's New York Daily News commentary.

Still, Pardes said nearby hospitals were able to take in those patients because of its reserved beds. Pardes further encouraged policymakers not to "confuse emergency capacity with waste."

Mayor Bloomberg said last Monday that the city will spend $134 million in emergency funds for hospital and school repairs, New York Daily News reported.

"Our city has never experienced a storm as destructive as Hurricane Sandy, and financing for these repairs is as necessary as it is urgent," Bloomberg said.

For more information:
- see the Kaiser Health-WNYC-NPR story
- here's the NY Daily News article
- read the commentary

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