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Schumer to Say NYC’s & The HHC-Public Hospital System’s Meticulous Handling of the Ebola Crisis Must Be Compensated, Given Huge Negative Repercussions to City & Country Had Safeguards Failed & Disease Spread Further – Schumer Calls for Costs Incurred to Be Covered, Including Those at Bellevue to Quarantine & Care for Dr. Spencer, Extensive ‘Disease Detective’ Contact Tracing Work & More

Schumer Will Also Call for Creation of ‘Ebola Fund’ Similar to Those For Diseases like Tuberculosis, Available to Reimburse Any City That Handles a Confirmed Ebola Case, Treats a Patient & Conducts Contact Tracing; “Local Governments Should Be Compensated for Fighting Contagion Just Like We Help Localities After Natural Disasters.”

Schumer: NYC & Taxpayers Can’t Be Left Holding the Bag for Their Thorough Handling of a Deadly Infectious Disease – Fewer Resources Spent Could Have Meant Disastrous Results for the Whole Nation

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called for New York City to be reimbursed fairly for the approximately over $20 million in costs it has incurred thus far to both quarantine and treat Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer at Bellevue Hospital, and for the extensive ‘contact tracing’ that the City has conducted in order to contain the spread of this deadly disease in New York City. That number is expected to rise. Schumer said that the City and its public hospital system have taken extensive, smart measures in handling the Ebola crisis, in order to avoid massive negative repercussions to the city and country if the disease had spread further; however, those meticulous measures come at a price. Schumer explained that the treatment of Dr. Spencer was extremely expensive, involving about 100 workers involved specifically in his care. In addition, the City Health Department has established a 24-hour-a-day operation to keep track of about 300 people each day that have returned from Ebola hotspots in West Africa or that have had direct contact with Dr. Spencer.

Therefore, Schumer is taking two important steps to ensure that cities like New York and their taxpayers are compensated for the resources expended on containing this national public health threat. First, Schumer said that New York should be reimbursed for a large percentage of their expenses related to handling Ebola, analogous to how the federal government aids communities that get hammered by natural disasters. Schumer is particularly focused on reimbursing Bellevue Hospital, part of the HHC public hospital system, which already has a strained budget. Second, Schumer said he would fight to create a dedicated “Ebola Contingency Fund’ that reimburses states and localities for treatment and containment of Ebola, when that locality has a confirmed case of Ebola. This would be modeled after similar funds, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) federal isolation and quarantine fund for Tuberculosis within the Division of Global Migration, which aims to provide assistance to states to help the federal government contain international outbreaks.  Schumer launched his fight to create this ‘Ebola Fund’ in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2015 omnibus bill, set to be considered during the lame duck. Currently, the omnibus and President’s appropriations request does not include any plan to reimburse localities like New York City in such a substantial way.

“Last week, Dr. Spencer thankfully returned home healthy and free of Ebola; that is in large part thanks to the smart measures and meticulous handling of New York’s first Ebola case by the City and the doctors, nurses and staff at our public hospital at Bellevue,” said Senator Schumer. “But the world-class response mounted by New York City and Bellevue HHC was not free, and the bottom line is local communities and local taxpayers should not foot the whole bill for handling an infectious disease that is a threat to the nation. New York City and HHC Bellevue should be compensated for their great work, just like how we compensate local communities when they suffer from natural disasters. Moreover, we must make sure that there is funding available in the future for any city that may handle a confirmed Ebola case, and that’s why I’m also calling for a permanent ‘Ebola Fund,’ much like the ‘Tuberculosis Contingency Plan’ we already have in place to control the spread of serious, international outbreaks of infectious diseases.”

Bellevue Hospital and New York's other designated Ebola centers have committed enormous resources to ensuring that they are prepared to effectively care for Ebola patients while keeping their workforce safe," said Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske. "But these preparedness efforts are extremely costly, and there will continue to be significant Ebola costs moving forward. Federal reimbursement and an Ebola Contingency Fund would be invaluable to the hospital community's preparedness efforts, and I applaud Senator Schumer for his leadership in calling for them.”

Dennis Whalen, President of the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS), said, “HANYS commends Senator Schumer for his leadership in recognizing the work being done to protect the public in this health emergency, and for the need for significant federal support,” said Mr. Whalen. “We have seen a great example of how New York’s hospitals provide exceptional care with the case of Dr. Craig Spencer.  Dr. Ram Raju, and all of the nurses, doctors, other care givers, support staff, environmental engineers, and so many others at Bellevue Hospital demonstrated incredible teamwork and leadership."

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has had approximately 500 staffers working on Ebola full-time. As part of the response, New York City coordinated an extensive contact tracing process that operated 24-hours a day. In fact, many of these staffers were working overtime, seven days a week. According to theNew York Times, as of November 11, 2014, New York City had been tracking approximately 300 people per day for possible Ebola symptoms. Of that, two-thirds had been in Ebola hotspots in West Africa like, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. One-third of those being tracked were individuals involved in taking care of Dr. Spencer at Bellevue Hospital, including doctors, nurses and Fire Department employees who transported him to the hospital. As part of the contact tracing process, individuals being monitored for possible Ebola symptoms were required to take their temperature twice a day and check in with the NYC Health Department for 21 days. Operators, including some who spoke West African dialects, checked in with individuals and recorded the temperatures. Additionally, New York City helped with case investigations; researchers known as “disease detectives”, as well as the police, investigated all suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola and helped locate individuals who needed to be monitored. Additionally, HHC incurred costs for contracted hires of healthcare professionals needed to backfill for staffing shortages on nurses treating Dr. Spencer and training for Ebola protocols.

New York City alone has spent over $20 million tackling the Ebola crisis – a number that is expected to rise significantly - yet all of New York State will only receive approximately $14.6 M of the $6.1 billion that President Obama has requested for Ebola. The requested money focuses on preparedness activities and does not account for the actual costs that have been incurred from the coordination around Ebola treatment and prevention activities. Hospitals in New York, for example, have incurred enormous costs in their urgent preparations to treat a suspect or confirmed Ebola patient – especially Bellevue Hospital and nine other hospitals that have volunteered to be designated Ebola centers. 

Schumer said that this ‘Ebola Contingency Fund’ should operate like the CDC’s federal isolation and quarantine fund for Tuberculosis within the Division of Global Migration, which sets aside $1 million in federal funding for states and localities to treat possible tuberculosis patients and contain the threat. To ensure prompt and effective isolation, the CDC has Memorandums of Agreement with 182 hospitals for transportation, evaluation, diagnosis, care and treatment of travelers with tuberculosis who pose a significant risk to the public. The $1 million ensures resources are available to address state and local expenditures for federal isolation orders.