When bad news is afoot, political figures and healthcare administrators alike carefully reserve their right to be outraged. “Do not go gentle into that good night,” famously advised the poet Dylan Thomas.
But they also want to play a central role in influencing important decisions. That, after all, is what decision makers do. Even if a decision maker doesn’t trust or respect his or her peers sitting at the table, he or she wants a seat at it.
The photograph shows Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo and HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley CEO David Lundquist standing in the Common Council chambers of Kingston’s City Hall, genially shaking hands and smiling. As we know, photographs never lie.
What’s the occasion? According to a HealthAlliance press release last Friday, the two are reviewing the latest preliminary plans for a single, full-service nonsectarian community hospital located at Mary’s Avenue in Kingston. Mutual concerns have been discussed, the release discloses, and “an ongoing commitment” has been made by each to work together to preserve and enhance the quality of health services to the community.
The picture and the release make the point that Gallo’s in the loop. Gallo and Lundquist are collaborating now, committed to working together as partners with the common goal of preserving quality healthcare services while minimizing job loss. The partners will continue to share information. They will work to ensure that plans for repurposing the Kingston Hospital campus contribute to Kingston’s economic development.
The relationship has certainly evolved rapidly.
“People, help me out here,” pleaded Gallo as he searched for allies two weeks ago to back the depth of his concern. “Be engaged. It’s your city. I can’t do it alone.” The mayor was worried not only about the loss of hospital jobs but the withdrawal of vital medical services and the negative impacts of hospital reorganization on the poor and the underserved. He was concerned about the stories he had heard of inefficiencies, waste and a lack of competitiveness at HealthAlliance
There just weren’t enough answers, he said. “They’ve gone forward with closing that campus — with no disrespect — without any specific alternatives as to how they’re going to continue those medical services, other than state that they have to wait for the state health department to come to Kingston … to determine what would continue or discontinue in terms of medical treatment,” said Gallo at that time. “I think that we’re owed a little more information and a little more assurances than just that.”
Gallo went further. He had had conversations with former board members who were around when consolidation occurred, and with residents, and they had questioned “whether the facilities have been properly managed and whether they [HealthAlliance management] have responded to the changes to the health care system.”
Health care has been moving away from a focus on hospitals toward a more decentralized system of management. That trend is expected to accelerate. Asked Gallo: “Why hasn’t HealthAlliance taken that into account and responded to that competitive challenge?”
Gallo said at the time that he had requested a meeting “as soon as possible” with HealthAlliance officials so he “could provide information that could potentially be of service in these major decisions which are going to affect our city and our community over the long term.”