Local officials remain hopeful that the new Oneida County hospital that would consolidate inpatient services now offered at Faxton-St. Luke’s and St. Elizabeth Medical Center into one will be included in the state budget when it is adopted.
There was no funding for a new Mohawk Valley Network System hospital in the governor’s budget in mid-January and there’s still no commitment in the 30-day amendments that came out this week. The state’s fiscal year begins April 1.
“Although there were no amendments to the governor’s budget, I remain optimistic as positive discussions continue to take place between the administration and local and hospital officials in the region,” said Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi, D-119, Utica. “I continue to have conversations with top officials from the Cuomo administration and they continue to reiterate the governor’s commitment to fulfilling the promise he made just last year to provide funding for a new hospital.”
The current state spending plan earmarked $300 million for a new Oneida County hospital. However, this allocation was not carried over to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan for 2016-17, an unexpected development that sent local government and Mohawk Valley Network System officials scurrying to get the money restored in some manner in the final budget. What they’re looking for at the very least is a state commitment to the project. They acknowledge that the full $300 million is not needed in one year.
Minus the state commitment, the project is probably not going to happen. Total project cost is in range of $500 million to $600 million. It will take several years to design and then construct a new hospital. The preferred location is downtown Utica. The alternate one is the St. Luke’s campus in New Hartford,
Brindisi said not placing the project in next year’s budget was an oversight when the new spending plan was crafted in Albany.
“They also acknowledge that not carrying over the funding in this year’s proposed budget was a mistake and they are committed to fixing it,” said Brindisi. “As budget negotiations continue, we will work with the governor and legislative leaders in both houses to come up with a plan that provides funding for building a new hospital so residents in our region can access state-of-the-art health care.”
The mandated 30-day budget amendments are the tweaks and changes the governor adds a month after his budget plan is presented. They are used to fine-tune the spending plan and allow for some outreach to the state Legislature ahead of the final countdown to the April 1 budget deadline.
State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-37, Rome, said he was disappointed then governor did not include the project in his amendments because he has the authority to do so. He said he now awaits a plan at the state level that shows a commitment — something he says can still happen before there’s a a final budget for next fiscal year. He notes that state officials have reiterated several times since the proposed budget was released that the governor’s support for the hospital initiative has not wavered.
“We continue to work with our elected officials regarding funding for the proposed new hospital,” said Scott H. Perra, president and CEO of the Mohawk Valley Health System. “Based on the feedback we have received from our local representatives and their interactions with the governor’s office and the New York State Department of Health, we are still confident that funding will be allocated in the coming fiscal year.”
County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said last week he remained confident that when the state budget is finished, the hospital project will be part of it. He, like others, says the state’s commitment — even if the $300 million is allocated over several years — is critical to keeping the project on track. He has spoken directly with Cuomo about the issue.
Picente, Perra and Utica Mayor Robert M. Palmieri met with senior Cuomo staffers and others Jan. 20 — after the governor’s budget came out — to make the case why the state should keep its pledge. After the meeting, they held a news conference in Utica to report that they did not believe the state money was in jeopardy. Since then, Perra has spoken with a senior official at the Health Department to provide background information and a timeline on the hospital initiative and what the health system has done in developing the plan.