Boston Hospital Cuts Will Affect Low-income Immigrants, Elderly

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Many low-income, elderly and immigrant residents in Massachusetts will likely be affected by Boston Medical Center's announcement on Wednesday that it will be laying off hundreds of workers and reducing services, the Boston Globe reports. Officials said that the hospital would lay off 250 employees, reduce staff hours and cut some key services, including primary care, pediatrics and geriatrics (Lazar, Boston Globe, 12/18).

Officials are taking the measures to reduce spending by $62.5 million (McConville, Boston Herald, 12/18). More than half of the hospital's patients are low-income residents who are senior citizens and immigrants, patient advocates said.

According to the Globe, the worsening economy has spurred job losses, and as a result many residents also have lost their health insurance coverage. Such individuals then have to rely in government-subsidized health care, and Boston Medical Center is the state's largest provider of such services.

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The unprecedented number of residents using the services prompted the hospital to make the cuts, hospital President and Chief Executive Elaine Ullian said. "Seventy-five percent of our pediatric service is for indigent children. Eighty-three percent of our neonatal intensive care unit is Medicaid babies. Seventy-six percent of obstetrics is (for) Medicaid women," she said, adding, "So we decided to diminish the access, so everyone takes a hit, but not shut down an entire service."

Hospital officials also said it plans to sever ties with Quincy Medical Center, which serves many low-income immigrants, by next June. Over the last 10 years, Boston Medical Center provided Quincy with physicians and some financial assistance. At minimum, patients will face longer waits for appointments and assistance over the phone, Ullian said. She added that the hospital will be cutting a significant number of interpreters from its staff. Thirty percent of the hospital's patients do not speak English.

Local health care advocates, who are opposed to the cuts, are proposing that the hospital use federal funds expected from the national economic stimulus package (Boston Globe, 12/18).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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