On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered New York State hospitals to increase their capacity by 50%. Cuomo said that while the order wouldn’t solve the state’s bed shortage, ordering any more of an increase would have been unrealistic.
The governor’s also been on record, pleading for more ventilators.
What seems to have gone missing in the media’s especially favorable coverage of Andrew is two absolutely critical steps he could have taken years ago, that would have greatly reduced a panicked need to fill these demands.
From 2009-2010 the Swine Flu Pandemic infected 60.8 million Americans. That included 274,000 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths. Cuomo’s New York was one of the states hardest hit. Yet even with worldwide pandemic threats increasing and millions of unscreened people crossing our porous borders, Andrew, currently in his third term, has failed to address hospital bed shortages when he’s had the platform, program, and power to do so.
How? By properly using the Certificate of Need (CON) program, which controls the expansion of health care facilities in the Empire State. Yup. Initiated 1964 in New York, CON took command over, among other things, the expansion of hospitals. It “….governs the establishment, construction, renovation….of health care facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes….and diagnostic and treatment centers.” CON legislation was based on the belief that overbuilding and redundancy would lead to higher health care costs.
How’s that playing out during a time when New York has basically shut down virtually all commerce and is scrambling to find space for critically ill residents?
In 2015, after learning that the state’s stockpile of medical equipment had 16,000 fewer ventilators than New Yorkers would need in a severe pandemic Cuomo could have chosen to buy more ventilators. Instead, he asked his health commissioner, Howard Zucker to assemble a task force and draft rules for rationing the ventilators they already had.
Cuomo could have purchased the additional 16,000 needed ventilators for $36,000 apiece or a total of $576 million in 2015, which was a half percent of the state’s budget. That price was considerably less than the $750 million he blew on a boondoggle “Buffalo Billion” solar panel factory.
Meanwhile, the above-mentioned task force came up with rules that will be imposed when ventilators run short. Patients assigned a red code would have the highest access, and other patients would be assigned green, yellow or blue (the worst) depending on a “triage officer’s” decision.
As a result, today, New York City’s deputy commissioner for disease control Demetre Daskalakis is anticipating “some very serious difficult decisions” over the life and death of seriously ill patients.
While Governor Cuomo is enjoying the national media’s basically uncritical coverage of his handling of New York’s Corona outbreak, now might be a fine time for someone to ask if he believes in one of Benjamin Franklin’s most often quoted, common sense droplets of wisdom.
After offering a brief review of what hadn’t been done, the brave reporter might simply inquire if Franklin’s “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is still good advice.