TRENTON _ Senator Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex and Union, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement regarding today’s panel hearing on the affect of the FY 2009 Budget on the State Department of Health and Senior Services:
“Today, we heard that New Jersey’s hospital system is in a state of crisis. Hospital closures threaten to undermine how the State provides access to health care for our citizens, and a combination of the national economic downturn and the increasing cost of health care in New Jersey and globally has put a severe strain on our health care dollars.
“New Jersey needs safeguards in place to protect local residents when a hospital closure causes the sudden and drastic loss of health care access in a community. The early warning system currently in place has to be strengthened and enacted in a timely manner so that the community is given a chance to know when a hospital’s in crisis, and can take the appropriate actions to prevent against a gap in health care.
“By receiving enough advanced notice, we can engage State legislators, local leaders, residents and other local health care facilities to find adequate solutions to the access problems our constituents face in the wake of a hospital closure. We need to be able to bring everyone to the table when a hospital is preparing to close, so that we can have the advantage of the wide diversity and breadth of ideas in the community, and work on behalf of the people’s best interests.
“In addition, we need to take a serious look at the charity care system, in which the State subsidizes hospitals’ care for the uninsured. In our district, it seems that providing more funding has never been sufficient to meet the charity care needs of our hospitals, even before the planned cuts in charity care in the FY 2009 Budget.
“Moving forward, we need adequate, sustainable support from the State for hospitals that serve those in greatest need. For so many New Jerseyans, hospitals stand as the primary – and in some cases, only – point of access to quality health care. We must ensure our local hospitals have the health care resources they need, so that New Jersey’s residents aren’t left without access to necessary medical care.”