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Cambridge Health Alliance Avoids Dramatic Cuts

Cambridge Health Alliance is cutting 300 positions, closing six of 20 clinics and consolidating other services...but supporters including Representative Alice Wolf are relieved.

"The health alliance was bleeding and we were going to need a tourniquet fast. I think we’ve gotten somewhat of one. Now the challenge is to work with the community around some of these changes."

Today the hospital announced a reorganization plan that is much less dramatic than the warning it gave the Patrick administration late last year. Then, CHA said it might have to close two hospitals and lay off as many as 1,000 workers to cope with mid-year state budget cuts and the recession. Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby agreed to work with CHA to preserve what the administration considered essential services. Her office has asked the federal government to approve a funding mechanism (intergovernmental transfers...anyone want to explain this one?) worth $40 million dollars to Cambridge this year and $65 million in FY'10.

Senator Anthony Galluccio helped broker the agreement.

"I was very happy to receive a call from the Governor last night. The goal is keep the facilities open. We’ve kept the emergency services open, we’ve kept a significant number of the clinics open and I think we’ve maintained the core mission of the Alliance."

Secretary of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan mentioned the funding for CHA during budget briefings today.

"Their status as a public health hospital entitles them to that kind of treatment if its permissible within the state's agreement with the federal government."

Boston Medical Center is also facing deep state budget cuts, which the state says are in proportion to BMC's share of the state budget. One pool of dollars for the hospital was scheduled to end under the state's health coverage law. BMC is hoping to recoup some of the money through Medicaid reimbursement increases in the pending federal stimulus bill. Hospital supporters have scheduled a rally tomorrow that is part of a campaign to pressure Governor Patrick to restore funding for BMC.

Martha Bebinger

This program aired on January 28, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Martha Bebinger Twitter Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.

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