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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Speculator, NY ,

U.S. Senator Charles E. "Chuck" Schumer talks with local health care providers and public officials at Speculator Primary Care Center Friday, Aug. 15. (Photo/Cristine Meixner)

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Schumer: 'I'm here to help'

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - Updated: 8:41 AM

By CRISTINE MEIXNER

Editor

SPECULATOR -- "What can I do for you?" U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer asked, as he always does, when he visited here Friday, Aug. 15.

Schumer, a Democrat, has visited the county every year since before being elected in 1998. This trip was to discuss the challenges of health care delivery in Hamilton County with local officials and health professionals.

Dr. John Rugge, executive director of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, and Larry Kelly, chief executive officer of Nathan Littauer Health System in Gloversville, met with Schumer at Speculator Primary Care Center. Several local officials were also present, including Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman William Farber, Town of Lake Pleasant Supervisor Neil McGovern and Village of Speculator Mayor Letty Rudes.

Schumer has taken a special interest in HHHN for years. Rugge formed the not-for-profit group of community health centers in 1974. HHHN now has 16 health centers, including one in Hamilton County, in the Town of Indian Lake.

NLH has eight health centers, including one in Speculator. The rest are in Fulton County.

Farber said now that broadband is progressing nicely the county is turning its focus to health care.

"Now we're figuring out how to improve the provision of health care," he said. "We're convening meetings countywide to talk about providing services. We are a microcosm of the health care system."

DOCTOR SHORTAGE

One of the problems all rural areas face is a shortage of doctors.

Schumer said he and senators [Harry] Reid and [Bill] Nelson are working on a bill that would create 15,000 new hospital residency slots, with half in general practice. "The incentive is a residency," he said. "There are internists who can't find a residency."

That's because Medicare and Medicaid reimburse teaching hospitals for the costs incurred to train physicians. However, the number of residents for whom hospitals may be reimbursed has been frozen since 1997 at 1996 levels.

NURSING HOME

Rugge told Schumer of a problem Adirondack Tri-County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in North Creek is having with the New York State Department of Health.

"It is an 82-bed not-for-profit nursing home started in 1974," he said. "You commonly need 160 beds these days to be profitable."

Adding to the problem, he said, only 60 of the beds qualify for high level Medicaid reimbursement. The nursing home has asked the DOH for an exception, but was turned down.

"The crux is achieving efficiency in order to survive," Rugge said.

"Okay," Schumer said. "I'll help them get an exception."

EMS HELP

Schumer said he would help with another problem, too: that of Speculator Volunteer Ambulance Corps not qualifying for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.

The corps is not affiliated with any fire agency, town or village; receives no tax money; and does not bill either individuals or insurances for its services, member Ken Kuhrt explained. It operates entirely on donations.

"That's great," Schumer said. "It is remarkable."

He thought that since SVAC doesn't even bill Medicaid or Medicare, saving those agencies money, that perhaps they could find some funds to help it purchase a new cardiac monitor. He said he would look into it.

Schumer told those present not to hesitate to call his office when they need something or have a problem. "My job is to help," he said.

     

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