The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to reimburse New York City’s public hospitals nearly $1 billion for treating Covid patients in spring 2020.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Ritchie Torres announced the news at a press conference on Wednesday outside of Lincoln Hospital – one of the city’s 11 public hospitals – in the Bronx, reported The New York Times.
The first wave that struck the Big Apple was the city’s most devastating, sending cases rising and seeing hospitalizations and deaths reach record-high levels.
Officials say the money will cover the costs hospitals made by hiring additional staff, buying more equipment, stocking up on personal protective equipment and expanding capacity to treat the surge of patients.
FEMA has agreed to reimburse New York City’s public hospitals nearly $1 billion for treating Covid patients in spring 2020, during which hospitalizations at 1,791 on March 31 (above)
NYC Health + Hospital asked FEMA in October 2020 for compensation of $864 million but, at the time, FEMA said it would only reimburse $260 million because H+H had allegedly included costs unrelated to COVID-19. Pictured: COVID-19 patients are taken into to the Wakefield Campus of the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, April 2020
The system, NYC Health + Hospital (H+H), asked FEMA in October 2020 for compensation of $864 million to cover the spring 2020 costs.
However, in March 2021, FEMA said it would only reimburse $260 million, only about one-third of the request.
The federal agency claimed this was because the system had included costs unrelated to COVID-19.
FEMA claimed that coronavirus-related hospital expansion costs are eligible for reimbursements, but not costs for regular hospital operations.
In letter to FEMA in June 2021, Dr Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC H+H wrote that this differentiation is ‘artificial’ because every aspect of the public health system was affected by the pandemic.
‘The distinction being assumed by FEMA between COVID and non-COVID areas is an artificial one not reflective of the real world operational and clinical circumstances and needs faced by H+H hospitals,’ he wrote, according to the New York Daily News.
He added that during the first wave of the pandemic, many patients admitted to hospitals for non-Covid reasons were testing positive during their stay.
Because of that, doctors and nurses ‘operated under the assumption’ that every patient was a potential COVID-19 case and took ‘Covid precautions in treating them,’ Katz wrote, according to the Daily News.
Torres said on Wednesday that it wasn’t until he and Schumer got involved that FEMA agreed to reimburse an additional $604 million, reported The Times.
Katz thanked Schumer and Torres on Wednesday and said their help ‘proved that the federal government can work.’
e first wave of the pandemic was the city’s most brutal with cases quickly rising from the first confirmed infection on March 1, 2020 to 6,258 on April 7
Deaths were never high than during the first wave with a record-high 814 reported on April 7
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was also presented for the announcement, commended the public hospital system’s workers, according to The Times.
‘What I saw from all of you was extraordinary courage, strength, resiliency, incredible commitment,’ he said.
The first wave of the pandemic was the city’s most brutal with cases quickly rising from the first confirmed infection on March 1, 2020 to 6,258 on April 7, data from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shows.
And while cases didn’t reach record-high levels until the winter 2020 surge, single-day totals for hospitalizations and deaths were highest in the spring.
Hospitalizations reached a record-high 1,791 on March 31 and deaths reached 814 fatalities on April 7.