By Jeanne Sager
HARRIS July 23, 2002 It was a case of giving an inch and losing a mile.
Last week, officials at the Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris, as well as politicians in Albany, were fighting legislation in conference committee in the U.S. Congress that would cut the local hospital out of a pool that refunds hospitals for Medicare services, but that concern was cut short by Congress.
The legislation, strongly advocated by Congresswoman Sue Kelly of Katonah, would include Dutchess and Orange counties in the payment program to help them keep up with the wages supplied by nearby New York City hospitals.
The bill cut Sullivan County and Ulster County hospitals out of the loop, a cause for concern for facility officials who were worried theyd lose quality medical staff to the other regional hospitals.
But the U.S. Congress eliminated the controversy Thursday, pulling the legislation entirely. Negotiators in the Senate-House conference committee swapped the proposal for a piece of homeland security legislation which had previously met opposition in the Senate.
According to Catskill Regional Medical Center President Arthur Brien, being left out of the legislation would have meant losing close to $2 million in refund monies.
Plus, he noted, the bill would have given the other regional hospitals a higher wage advantage, essentially allowing them to poach CRMC staff.
Of 40 hospitals in the region, CRMC was one of just four that would have been kept out of Kellys proposal.
They either have to put us in the pool or take everyone out, Brien said in an interview earlier this month.
The Sullivan County hospital will still be behind New York City facilities, but they will not face competition from Dutchess and Orange counties in the future.