Man: The following segment is sponsored by Harding Mazzotti.
Elizabeth: Attorney General Letitia James hosted a public hearing this week about St. Peter’s Health Partner’s plan to close Burdett Birth Center in Troy. Dozens testified in that hearing. So, now, Supervising Attorney Cassandra Kazukenus from Harding Mazzotti is here. So, first, can you break down for us, like, what is the Attorney General’s authority to do anything here?
Cassandra: Yeah, the Attorney General’s authority is relatively broad and it goes back to, like, the state constitution, which makes the Attorney General the attorney for the state, but also for the people. And then there’s other statutes that give power within that, but the broad power is to be an attorney for the people. So, some of what’s happened from that is the stemming and creation of bureaus like the Healthcare Bureau, which looks to protect the people in ensuring they have access to healthcare, which makes sense. The other thing is, is not-for-profit organizations like St. Peter’s are overseeing there’s regulation from the Attorney General’s office. So, there’s a couple of different ways and avenues that the Attorney General is involved in healthcare decisions.
Elizabeth: So, could she, based on the testimony that she heard the other day, take this and then make a decision to actually try and keep it open despite what might happen otherwise?
Cassandra: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of things going on, that’s still with the Department of Health, which obviously has some oversight as well. So, I think there is the potential. The Attorney General has been involved in prior healthcare consolidation. Some of that comes from the federal government as well. So, yes, I think there is the potential.
Elizabeth: And so, no matter what happens, whether it stays open or closes, how does this obviously impact patients and people in the area?
Cassandra: Yeah, obviously from the hearing yesterday, you heard from a lot of the local community. The community that’s primarily serviced there, one of the things that they care about, which is a deeply personal thing for most people, is their birthing plan. They have doulas there and they have midwives and they’re afraid of losing access to that, you know, determination over their own birth plan. The other thing is, is transportation’s an issue. Lots of the people who are serviced by this particular care center don’t have cars, so they use public transportations or Ubers. Ubers can be cost-prohibitive to get from Troy to St. Peter’s or Albany Med. And public transportation from there is not a fast process or an easy process. And obviously, when you’re pregnant, sometimes you just need to get to the hospital relatively quickly.
Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly. All right, well, thank you for explaining a little bit about how this hearing plays into the greater scheme of this issue here. Appreciate it. And for more info covered in our weekly “What Are Your Rights?” segments, or to send us a story idea, just head to our website, cbs6albany. com.