Head of NYC public hospitals cites cash-flow crisis

NEW YORK (AP) New York City's system of 11 public hospitals will leave more jobs unfilled and has started slowing payments to vendors because of a cash-flow crisis, according to its interim president.

Stanley Brezenoff said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal (http://on.wsj.com/2z2aYf2 ) that he could be forced to consider reducing patient services on days when there isn't enough staff on hand.

Brezenoff said in a letter to staff on Thursday that he would fill just 25 percent of the 250 to 300 positions that become available each month at the hospitals the system oversees.

Officials at New York City Health and Hospitals say the system has only about two weeks of cash on hand because the state has yet to disburse $380 million.

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"There will be hard choices," Brezenoff said.

He said state officials did not provide notice that the city wouldn't be getting the money; state officials say the city knew federal cuts were a possibility and should have planned accordingly.

Asked whether the system could meet its payroll obligations for the rest of the month, Brezenoff responded that he couldn't immediately say.

Brezenoff said that without the funds, the public hospitals would likely increase the number of patients they ask ambulance services to send to other hospitals. But he said no person who arrived at a public hospital would be turned away.

The system serves low-income New Yorkers who often can't find treatment elsewhere.

Officials with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration say they are trying to plan for a $2.6 billion loss in federal health care aid that will require hospitals throughout the state to find savings.

"The suggestion that the state is somehow in a position to reverse federal cuts is willful political ignorance and a distortion of reality only the federal government can possibly restore cuts they've enacted," said Jason Helgerson, New York state Medicaid director. "Save for the federal government restoring these funds, there is no way the remaining (health care funding) can reimburse all hospitals at 100 percent."

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Information from: The Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com