Schumer pushes for help to small, rural hospitals during Penn Yan visit

Julie Sherwood
Daily Messanger

Penn Yan

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was in Penn Yan on Wednesday to present a three-part plan to help hospitals through the pandemic.

Senator Chuck Schumer presented his plan to help rural hospitals during his visit to Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital in Penn Yan last Wednesday. At right is Phil Beckley, board chair of Finger Lakes Health.

“No places are more affected than our hospitals,” said Schumer outside Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital. Greeting the senator were local officials and hospital leaders, as well as a small group of employees and several children who gathered outside the hospital entrance where Schumer spoke.

The senator lauded the sacrifice of doctors, nurses, and staff throughout the pandemic, “putting public health above profit and working ceaselessly to help Yates County and the Finger Lakes beat back the virus and flatten the curve,” he said.

The plan calls for additional federal support in the form of emergency aid — for the $175 billion relief fund, as well as releasing $60 billion already approved, but not yet delivered. It also calls for amending the Medicare loans program. The program currently carries a 10% interest rate and withholds Medicare payments from hospitals until the balance is paid, the senator said. Schumer’s plan also seeks additional resources for testing.

Dr. Jose Acevedo, president and CEO of Finger Lakes Health, said he appreciates the senator’s advocacy and “inclusiveness,” recognizing the importance of rural areas and their hospitals. Acevedo said the pandemic has taken its toll on the Finger Lakes Health system. Finger Lakes Health over the last six months has lost 40 positions. “And we are not creating jobs,” Acevedo added.

Finger Lakes Health’s facilities are spread throughout the Finger Lakes and employ more than 1,600 people. The system includes two hospitals — Soldiers and Sailors and Geneva General Hospital — four long-term care facilities; eight primary care physician practices; an ambulatory surgery center; two Urgent Care locations, and six specialty care practices.

Soldiers and Sailors hospital has so far had seven patients with COVID-19. The hospital and its nursing home, the Homestead, had 10 staff who tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

In a followup email, Lara Turbide, vice president community services for Finger Lakes Health, said testing and screening costs and the need for PPE have made a significant impact.

“Similar to other hospitals we discontinued elective surgeries within our health system, which reduced revenue,” she said. It was costing Finger Lakes Health $40,000 a week when nursing home staff required bi-weekly COVID-19 testing, she said.

Phil Beckley, board chair for Finger Lakes Health, thanked Schumer for his advocacy.

“We strive every day to do all we can for as many as we can,” he said, adding “we need some help too.”

Others in attendance included Yates County Legislature Chairman Doug Paddock, Yates County Administrator Nonie Flynn, and Penn Yan Mayor Leigh Mac-Kerchar among others.