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Study: Hospitals drive local economies

SARANAC LAKE - A report published this week by a statewide health care advocacy organization declares that hospitals are some of the most powerful economic engines for communities in the North Country.

The study shows that statewide, hospitals employ nearly 687,000 New Yorkers and generate $108 billion in economic activity, accounting for 9.4 percent of the "gross state product."

Area leaders and hospital officials said this week they plan to cite the report as they seek to influence the policies of Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo when he takes office in January.

William Van Slyke of the Healthcare Association of New York State said a breakdown of the numbers in his group's report indicates that North Country hospitals account for more than 12,000 jobs and generate $1.4 billion in economic activity.

"Hospitals, in the whole of the North Country and across the state, are incredibly powerful economic anchors that are at risk."

Van Slyke said the public understands the value of hospitals when it comes to delivering critical services - but often taxpayers and lawmakers overlook the formidable economic impact of health care facilities in rural communities.

"Especially in communities up in the North Country where, aside from some of the state Department of Correctional Services facilities, hospitals are probably the biggest employers in the entire region," he said.

In the Tri-Lakes region alone, the Adirondack Medical Center employs roughly 920 people and has an economic impact estimated at $120 million annually.

While hospitals enjoy lead-dog status in the North Country's economic hierarchy, they're also one of the state's biggest expenses.

In just three years, health care providers in New York have suffered upwards of $5.3 billion in Medicaid cuts and an additional loss of $13 billion in federal Medicare funding.

Van Slyke says hospitals and health care providers are starved for capital and becoming increasingly fragile.

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