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Study: Hospitals drive local economies

"If the legislature and the incoming governor decide they're just going to keep cutting across the board, it's going to imperil these facilities and it's going to result in lost health care services for sure," he said. "But it also results in lost jobs. That means more people leaving the area and less opportunity. That's something we need to be aware of."

State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said this week she doesn't need to be told how important hospitals are to the communities she represents. The Republican's district spans across northern New York and is home to three major health care facilities - the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, the Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, and the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh.

Duprey bristles at the mention of Gov. David Paterson, who orchestrated major health care cuts in his 2010 executive budget.

"For whatever reason, the Paterson administration did not understand the issues surrounding health care in the North Country," she said.

She adds that lawmakers downstate don't fully appreciate the complexities of providing health care in the rural north.

"We continue to fight that battle of having people from the city - particularly New York City, but other metropolitan areas as well - understand that we have 50 to 60 miles between our hospitals," Duprey said. "It's not as easy as if somebody has an issue with one hospital, they can walk across the street or a few blocks down the road to another and get service."

But despite a rough stretch for the health care industry, officials are expressing a cautious optimism that Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo will take a different approach to health care funding as he begins drafting his first executive budget early next year.

Duprey says Cuomo appears to be giving the North Country a louder voice in the conversation.

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