Priorities for American Rescue Plan Funds: Statement of Debbie White, RN, President, HPAE - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

Priorities for American Rescue Plan Funds: Statement of Debbie White, RN, President, HPAE

Thank you for inviting me here to share HPAE’s priorities as the Governor prepares to allocate ARPA funds. HPAE has two requests. First, we urge the Governor to designated funds to provide Hazard Pay for our healthcare workforce, who must remain at work, facing life threatening risks and continue to provide safe care for their patients.

Second, we urge Governor Murphy to invest at least $600 million in ARPA funds towards the development of a new University Hospital medical facility.  UH was built as a commitment to the uninsured and underinsured people of color of the greater Newark area.  Its construction and maintenance are specified in the Newark Agreements.  Today, it’s status has risen to the only level one trauma hospital in north Jersey.  It was invaluable during COVID and is designated to treat infectious disease outbreaks in NJ including H1N1 and Ebola.

Due to the lack of investment of previous administrations, UH is regularly experiences breakdown in its infrastructure leading to delays in care and patient displacement.  Patients should never have to be told they have to be moved because their room will flood, or the electricity has failed.   UH is crumbling.  UH needs a new building.

As you know, the state owns University Hospital.  The state has a moral and an ethical obligation to use ARPA funds to provide the down payment for a new structure. A study to determine alternate sources of funding for the second half of the 1.2 billion needed for construction of a new UH is good. But the state needs to provide the down payment now.  The State has the money, and this project meets the criteria for ARP designations.

It is absolutely shocking that in the 43 years since the state opened UH, there have been minimal capital investments.   It’s unreasonable to compare the only public hospital in the state to other private wealthy hospitals- hospitals with other sources of funding that have tens of millions in cash surplus every year. Giving $35 million in ARPA funds to a private hospital for a revamped ER while UH struggles to care for 100,000 patients a year in an ER built over 40 years ago to accommodate 50-60,000 patients is a dereliction of the State’s duty as the owner of UH. The time is now.  Costs will only go up.