Arnot Health Ignores Data, Where do the Underserved Go?
Arnot Health’s decision to close the Emergency Room at St. Joseph’s Hospital will leave a vulnerable population without immediate healthcare. St. Joseph’s not only served low income residents it also provided valuable mental health care with their Behavioral Science Unit (BSU). Arnot Health is in the process of renovating their Emergency Room at the Arnot Ogden campus. This project, when completed, will be a brand-new state of the art Emergency Room. It will expand the number of beds to accommodate and allow privacy for patients and families.
As a healthcare system Arnot Health seems to forget that St. Joe's sits in the heart of Census Tract 6 which has one of highest poverty rates in Chemung County. There is even a group of over 70 people whose sole mission was to improve the health outcomes of this area. Arnot Health was one of the main participants in the initiative. A million dollars was given to the City/County to target this area and improve the lives of the residents living there.
The impact on this move affects young and old and is another hit to low income individuals and families. With over 40,000 emergency room visits between St. Josephs and Arnot Ogden, thousands come from a one-mile area surrounding St. Josephs. Chemung County ranks 59 out of 62 counties for overall health. (See Rankings)
I grew up on E. Second St, one block over from St. Joseph's Hospital. I remember the 72 Flood and the decimation of our neighborhood. Urban renewal, redlining, blockbusting and other exclusionary practices have created neighborhoods of concentrated poverty that we see across the United States. These efforts however, were not specific to larger legacy cities. The City of Elmira’s redlining map shows a notorious theme of disinvestment within census tracts 6, 7, and 10. Census tracts 6 and 7 more specifically, were categorized as “definitely declining,” while having “dilapidating conditions,” and “poorly maintained slum areas, displaying no pride.” See redlining map here .
Where is Common Ground Health?
Common Ground Health is an organization that brings together hospital systems, health insurers, county health departments, physician groups, consumers and other partners to review data and design community-wide solutions.
Healthcare systems rely on and make decisions based on data. Common Ground issued a report last year that had a lot of hype around the impact of housing and healthcare. I attended a luncheon where the head of Common Ground spoke about the Rapid Health Impact Assessment report from March 2019 (full copy of report).
According to this Rapid Health Impact Assessment, residents living within the 14901 zip code experienced higher rates of emergency room visits for respiratory diseases than their neighbors in surrounding zip codes within the City of Elmira. Additionally, the number of asthma-related emergency room visits between 2012 and 2016 were double than that of the entire Southern Tier Region.
So let me get this straight, after this report was released the best idea was to close an Emergency Room that aided an underserved population including people with mental health issues. Who was at the table regarding this decision? Is this the best solution that Arnot Health came up with? I hope not and our taxpayer’s dollars should be returned.
Return State Funding
If Arnot Health received state money as part of the ESPRI grant then I’m calling for them to return it. In 2017 Governor Cuomo awarded a grant of $10M to Arnot Health to build this new Emergency room. That money should be returned as well if a proper solution is not found to address the healthcare needs of our fellow residents. This closing would never have occurred in any other neighborhood in Chemung County, and only continues a cycle of neglect and disinvestment within these vulnerable communities.