NJ should use budget surplus and rebuild health care to avoid grim post-COVID aftermath
Taken from App.com
Michael L. Diamond, Asbury Park Press
April 16, 2021
New Jersey should use its budget surplus to help rebuild a health care system that saw its flaws exposed during the pandemic, a report by an advocacy group and trade organization says.
Without changes, the groups say, the state risks being unprepared for the aftermath of the disease: health workers who are burned out; consumers who need access to mental health services; and a widening divide between the rich and the poor.
“Really, our call to action is: You have the community’s support behind you. You have the research. You now have the dollars,” said Linda Schwimmer, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a group trying to improve care and lower the cost. “Let’s do it. Let’s move these action steps forward at this critical time.”
The report, “Emerging from COVID-19: An Action Plan for a Healthier State,” was written by the Health Care Quality Institute and BioNJ, a trade group representing the state’s biopharmaceutical industry.
It was released as the state is in the fourth wave of a pandemic that has killed more than 22,000 New Jerseyans since March 2020 and shined a light on a fragile health care system.
But unlike recent history, the authors say, New Jersey lawmakers have a chance to tap into billions of dollars from a budget surplus and the most recent federal stimulus plan to shore up the industry.
Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union representing 14,000 nurses and health care workers, said she welcomed the report.
She said the union’s members have been battered by COVID, left feeling disposable and unprotected — a sign that the state and health care companies were “completely unprepared for this pandemic.”
“These workers were in an environment that was akin to war, and I see signs of PTSD,” White said. “There was so much suffering, so many dying around them, and in the midst of all that, they were unprotected.”