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Goodbye 2020, hello 2021

The new year brings hope, optimism and a colossal amount of work.

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Good riddance, 2020.

While we won’t be able to truly move beyond that terrible year until COVID-19 is behind us, thankfully, 2021 is already providing signs of hope. Across the state, frontline healthcare workers are sharing stories, videos and photos as they receive their first and second doses of vaccine. These exciting events mark the beginning of the end of this pandemic.

With that hope in mind, here’s my perspective on 2021 so far — absolutely subject to change, of course! If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we know nothing about what the future may hold.

Immediate

Despite newly authorized vaccines, COVID-19 remains a dangerous public health threat and new strains only increase that threat. Cases continue to steadily increase. COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in many parts of the state are at the highest level they’ve been.

Managing this surge requires non-stop efforts by our hospital and continuing care members, and HANYS has been with them every step of the way. Our number one shared priority is making sure that all patients, COVID-19-positive or not, receive the care they need, when they need it. Maintaining this high level of care requires additional staff and supplies, as well as coordination among healthcare facilities to “surge and flex” if necessary. Clinicians and administrators have been doing yeoman’s work for months. Despite around-the-clock challenges, they have and will continue to respond to this unprecedented crisis and provide essential care to their communities.

Simultaneously, hospitals have been at the epicenter of New York state’s vaccine distribution effort. Vaccines will help us end this crisis, but only if we get shots in arms. Hospitals across the state are doing just that. HANYS, our members and the state share the goal of getting as many people vaccinated as possible, as quickly as possible. With more than 19 million people in the state, this goal will keep us busy through much of 2021. But we are all ready, willing and excited to make sure New Yorkers are protected.

The surge of patients and vaccination are our immediate, urgent priorities. But there is so much more on our plate.

Near-term

2020 wreaked havoc on our state, the economy and the fiscal strength of our hospitals.

Before the pandemic, New York’s hospitals already had the thinnest statewide average operating margin in the nation. They face $20 billion to $25 billion in revenue losses and extraordinary costs due to COVID-19 – and that does not include the financial damages accruing during this latest surge of COVID-19 cases. As we head into the first quarter of 2021, nearly a year into fighting COVID-19, their financial situation has only become more dire.

Meanwhile, the state is in a grave financial position and has floated potential cuts of up to 20% to the state’s Medicaid program next year. Such cuts would have crushing impacts on both patients and our healthcare providers.

At the federal level, we continue to strongly advocate for state and local aid, a provision left out of the latest COVID-19 relief package. And at the state level, we’ll do everything we can to protect healthcare funding during this upcoming budget season and legislative session.

Long-term

The COVID-19 response has dominated our agenda over the last several months, but it has not replaced our other priorities. HANYS continues to do essential work related to policy, quality initiatives, education, analysis and more, and that work will continue in 2021.

Our mission is to ensure every New Yorker has access to affordable, high-quality care. By providing leadership, representation and service to our members, we continually work to solve the complex healthcare issues that threaten that goal, and work to improve the health of New York's communities.

Key to our work is educational programming. The scope of that programming is vast, but I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few upcoming webinars HANYS is offering to our members and the public.

This year, we’ll continue to offer our Recovery and Preparedness webinar series, focused on helping healthcare organizations and providers navigate unprecedented operational and clinical challenges brought on by the pandemic. Registration is open for the following sessions:

You can find past webinars from this series on our Recovery and Preparedness webpage.

HANYS is also pleased to launch a new series in partnership with the University at Albany, Turning the Tide: Understanding and Eliminating Minority Health Disparities. The first session, “Quantifying the Extent of Minority Health Disparities Experienced with COVID-19,” will take place at 1 p.m. on Jan. 13. Learn more about this session and register on our Turning the Tide website.

Moving forward

As we look to 2021, we know there will be many challenges. But we also know this past year has made us even more resilient and prepared for whatever lies ahead.

HANYS will continue to fight on behalf of our members, celebrate their victories and do everything we can to ensure New York hospitals and health systems have everything they need to care for their communities in the coming year and beyond.

With a better 2021 in our fervent hopes and plans, happy new year, everyone.