Speaking Truth to PowerApril 28, 2023
Thousands of members make their voices heard in Albany
It was a crisp and sunny morning on March 21st, when thousands of 1199 members from all over New York State converged around the Capitol building to make sure Governor Kathy Hochul knew what was at stake if she did not amend her proposed state budget. Bus after bus pulled into nearby parking lots until more than 15,000 members from New York City, Long Island and even Buffalo had filled the streets ahead of a massive rally which filled the MVP arena.
Members spoke from the podium about why the NYS budget was a moral document and warned that lives would be lost if crucial funding was not provided. They were joined by the Speaker of the NYS Assembly, Carl Heastie, and the NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and other elected officials to press Governor Hochul to do the right thing. While the message was stark, the mood was celebratory with Hip Hop artists taking the stage between speeches to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the genre.
“It is so exciting to be out here with everyone,” said Scheena Tannis, an RN at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn, “But to be honest I would rather be at work with my patients because that is my life’s calling. I knew we had to come to Albany though, because we had to let the people who make the decision know, that the time is now. Funding is important to all institutions, but especially safety net hospitals like the one where I work.
“We are about 90 percent reliant on Medicaid reimbursement. Our patients are underserved and that is the type of insurance that they have. But for every dollar we get 76 cents. So, what happens to that other 24 cents? It keeps creating a gap which grows. At some point it will become insurmountable. Michael Guavarez,
Recreation Leader at the Seagate Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Brooklyn, added: “The budget that Governor Hochul is proposing is not going to have enough funding to take care of healthcare heroes like myself, our co-workers and our families, and the residents and patients who we take care of.
The residents cannot come out [to protest]. They cannot make their voices heard. I have to come out for them.”
Another member from the Hudson Valley, Sean Thomas who works in Surgical Services at Putnam Hospital in the Hudson Valley, was also in Albany to demand that Governor Hochul increase Medicaid funding. He said: “It has been tough on all of us since the pandemic. We need funding both for our hospitals, for our patients and our families.
1199 Magazine: March / April 2023