The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to reimburse New York City’s public hospitals nearly $1 billion in the spring of 2020 for treating Covid patients.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Ritchie Torres announced the news during a press conference on Wednesday outside Lincoln Hospital – one of the city’s 11 public hospitals – in the Bronx, reported The New York Times.
The first wave to hit the Big Apple was the city’s most devastating, sending cases soaring and hospitalizations and deaths reaching record highs.
Officials say the money will cover the costs hospitals incur by hiring additional staff, purchasing more equipment, stocking personal protective equipment and expanding capacity to treat the wave of patients.
FEMA has agreed to reimburse New York City’s public hospitals nearly $1 billion for treatment of Covid patients in the spring of 2020, during which hospital admissions will increase to 1,791 as of March 31 (above)
NYC Health + Hospital asked FEMA for $864 million in compensation in October 2020, but FEMA said at the time it would reimburse only $260 million because H+H reportedly included costs unrelated to COVID-19. Pictured: COVID-19 patients admitted to the Wakefield Campus of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, April 2020
The system, NYC Health + Hospital (H+H), asked FEMA in October 2020 for a $864 million fee to cover spring 2020 costs.
However, in March 2021, FEMA said it would reimburse only $260 million, only about a 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 extension costs are eligible for reimbursement, but not costs for regular hospital surgeries.
In a letter to FEMA in June 2021, Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC H+H said this distinction is “artificial” because every aspect of the public health system has been affected by the pandemic.
“The distinction adopted by FEMA between COVID and non-COVID areas is artificial and does not reflect the real operational and clinical conditions and needs facing H+H hospitals,” he wrote, according to the statement. New York Daily News.
He added that during the first wave of the pandemic, many patients admitted to hospitals for non-Covid reasons tested positive during their stay.
Therefore, doctors and nurses “worked on the assumption” that each patient was a potential case of COVID-19 and took “Covid treatment precautions,” 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 repay an additional $604 million, The Times reported.
Katz thanked Schumer and Torres on Wednesday, saying their help “proved the federal government can work.”
The first wave of the pandemic was the city’s most brutal, with cases rising rapidly from the first confirmed infection on March 1, 2020, to 6,258 on April 7.
Deaths were never higher than during the first wave with a record high of 814 reported on April 7
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was also proposed for the announcement, praised the employees of the public hospital system, according to The Times.
“What I saw from all of you was extraordinary courage, strength, resilience, incredible dedication,” he said.
The first wave of the pandemic was the city’s most brutal, with cases rising rapidly 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 only hit an all-time high after the winter 2020 wave, one-day totals for hospitalizations and deaths were highest in the spring.
Hospital admissions reached a record high of 1,791 on March 31, and deaths reached 814 deaths on April 7.