October 17, 2007

Upstate Medical to remain in SUNY system

Source: NYSUT News Wire

Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, a major link in the SUNY hospital system and the employer of hundreds of members of United University Professions, will avoid privatization and remain part of SUNY under an agreement recently approved by the state's health commissioner.

Upstate Medical University and neighboring Crouse Hospital have signed an affiliation agreement that's acceptable to the state Department of Health and Gov. Spitzer.

The affiliation agreement follows a nearly year-long effort by UUP and NYSUT to reverse the recommendation by the state's Berger Commission to remove Upstate from SUNY.

UUP is the NYSUT affiliate representing academic and professional faculty at SUNY.

The response of UUP and NYSUT to that recommendation included a public education campaign, rallies by UUP members and other unionists and compelling testimony before legislators by leaders of both unions.

"Hard work by our members and a united front by NYSUT and UUP made our legislators see this Berger Commission recommendation for what it was: a move that would have cut critical services and desperately needed medical care for thousands of upstate residents," UUP President William Scheuerman said. 

NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin said the agreement allowing Upstate to remain a public institution keeps the SUNY Board of Trustees as the governing body.  

"This is a solution that we can live with, knowing that Upstate Medical University will remain intact for the residents of a region where there are very few specialized treatment options and none of the quality of this hospital," Lubin said.

Legal underpinning

UUP and NYSUT built their campaign against the Berger Commission on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.

Among the evidence amassed by the two unions as they went to the hospitals' defense: outside reviews describing the SUNY hospitals as efficient and well-managed; vivid testimony by former patients who recounted how UMU saved their lives; and a detailed rundown of the services offered by Upstate that would have been eliminated had the Berger recommendations gone into effect.

Some of central New York's poorest counties depend on UMU for care. The hospital counts among its services the highly regarded Clark Burn Center.

"The people of the state of New York own these hospitals, which are to be held in trust for them and for future generations," Scheuerman said. "Our members and our NYSUT sisters and brothers can take credit for keeping them that way."

- Darryl McGrath