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Healthcare vital to economic health of community, also

Guest Viewpoint

As of August of this year, there were 756,400 New Yorkers without jobs, and unemployment numbers are at levels not seen since 1982. But while other sectors struggle to retain workers, health care is the one sector of the U.S. economy actually creating jobs. Hospitals are adding jobs right here in the Empire State.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally hospitals have added more than 84,000 private sector jobs over the past year. That adds to the more than 5 million people already working in hospitals - over 370,000 in New York - caring for patients at the bedside, coordinating care in hospital pharmacies and labs and keeping the lights on, and caring for those in need.

Health care is responsible for 1 in 5 new jobs. Despite the economy, health care employs 36 percent more people than it did 10 years ago.

And yet, a "Super Committee" in Washington, tasked with cutting America's daunting $1.3 trillion deficit, is considering changes that may take these new jobs away.

Hospital leaders recognize the fiscal challenges our country faces and by no means believe we should shirk responsibility to reign in our nation's spending. Personally, our hospital has tightened its belt repeatedly. Nationally, hospitals have done more than tighten belts - we have made significant commitments in reducing health care costs over the next 10 years.

But I want our community - and respectfully, the congressional Super Committee - to have a full understanding of the impact potential cuts to hospital care would have in the North Country.

Medicare and Medicaid are under the Super Committee's microscope. The notion that cuts to hospital care can be made without impact on beneficiaries or the communities in which they live is misguided.

Hospital care is a labor-intensive endeavor. Wages and benefits account for the majority of our hospital's spending. Every hospital job supports two or more jobs as our hospitals and our employees purchase goods and services from other businesses - mostly local.

Chandler Ralph is the President & CEO of Adirondack Health, and is also on the Board of Trustees for the American Hospital Association.

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