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POLITICO New York Health Care, presented by PhRMA: Sinai looking to rebuild Beth Israel; Farley on Metzitzah b'peh

Dear readers: POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it at that time, along with a customized real-time news feed of New York health care policy news throughout the day, please contact us at and we'll set you up for trial access.

written by Dan Goldberg

SINAI LOOKING TO REBUILD BETH ISRAEL — Executives from Mount Sinai Health System met with the de Blasio administration late last month to discuss plans to rebuild Beth Israel Hospital, replacing its aging infrastructure with what could be a smaller facility with fewer in-patient beds. Ken Davis, Mount Sinai president and CEO, said no final decisions have been made and the meeting with First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris was "informational." “We are in the midst of trying to figure out how to rebuild the hospital, looking at various options to rebuild it and to integrate it better into our system,” Davis said. “We know care is moving more to an ambulatory space and we know there will have to be some diminution of inpatient beds.” Beth Israel, which has been on the Lower East Side for more than 125 years, is one of the several hospitals Mount Sinai inherited in 2013 when it purchased Continuum Health Services, which also owned Long Island College Hospital before selling it to SUNY. Read my full story here:

...Davis' desire to keep the de Blasio administration on board and well informed — even during the planning stage — makes sense, given that Mayor Bill de Blasio rose to prominence, in part, by opposing the closure of city hospitals. A redesigned Beth Israel, even one that is smaller, could conceivably meet the health care needs of the community, especially on the Lower East Side, which is already known as bedpan alley. However, too drastic a change, or one that sparks unrest among union employees could cause the mayor to try and stifle Sinai's ambitions.

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SAVING GOTHAM — Former city health commissioner Tom Farley thinks it was a mistake for the current Board of Health to repeal consent forms that had been required before metzitzahb’peh, the controversial circumcision ritual that requires a mohel to put his mouth on the wound. “I thought the consent forms were the right thing to do and the right balance and so I’m disappointed they rolled that back,” Farley told POLITICO New York. “There are some parents who are not themselves ultra orthodox who may hire a mohel who is and they may be completely unaware of this. Those parents deserve to be informed before they take that risk. Under the current schema I don’t think that’s guaranteed.” Farley was health commissioner during Michael Bloomberg’s third term as mayor and led the Board of Health when it implemented the consent forms in 2012.

...Farley’s comments come on the eve of the publication of his book, "Saving Gotham," due out Tuesday, which chronicles his time at the health department and Bloomberg’s public health campaigns. In the book, Farley argues for a strong, proactive health department, willing and able to take on private interests when they are at odds with public health. It’s a theme that runs through the fights against salt, sugar and tobacco — the three main antagonists of the book — and helps explain his view on the consent forms. It’s not enough, Farley said, to provide access to care or to test for bacteria. Health departments, if they really want to get to the source of health problems, need to take on businesses, politicians and special interests that are pushing harmful products and lifestyles. Farley approved of the board’s recent decision to require chain restaurants to put a warning image next to food items that contain more than 2,300 mg of sodium, which is more than the daily recommended limit. See more about the book here:

...Tid bit: Dr.Mary Bassett, who succeeded Farley when de Blasio was elected, explained why she quit the health department just before Tom Frieden announced he was leaving. “Tom [Frieden] is an enormously dedicated person,” she told Farley. “He works heart and soul to accomplish goals. And he gets very involved. His involvement always adds value to everything that we do … But the downside is also that.” Farley writes that Frieden’s propensity to make all the decisions ate at Bassett. Years later, she told Farley: “I hated working for Tom.”

NOW WE KNOW — Taller, more masculine men are perceived as more dominant, according to

a study in Perception. When researchers made 25-year-old men look 8 cm taller, up to a decade older, or made their faces more masculine (by, for example, increasing the prominence of their eyebrows), people thought the men looked more dominant. Men were at their most dominant at 35 years old. The researchers say, according to a press release accompanying the article, this is why Channing Tatum gets so many roles.

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** A message from PhRMA: In 2013 alone, the biopharmaceutical industry invested more than $553 million dollars in clinical trials in New York. Learn more about the economic impact of clinical trials in our communities at **

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE EBOLA MONEY? — Late last year, Congress authorized $576 million for Ebola preparedness in the United States. That money was supposed to reimburse hospitals for the work they did in 2014 when it seemed plausible the United States could see scores of infected patients, and for ongoing maintenance and training. But nearly a year later, the Department of Health and Human Services is sitting on about 60 percent of the money, with administration officials telling POLITICO New York’s Josefa Velasquez they are saving the cash for a rainy day. As a result hospitals in New York and across the country are receiving far less than they anticipated.

...New York's Ebola treatment centers, with the exception of Bellevue Hospital Center, which cared for New York's only Ebola patient, are expected to receive no more than $100,000 a year for five years. That, according to Ken Raske, president of the GNYHA, is inadequate to maintain ongoing readiness. The money isn't as important as the principle, Raske said. Hospital executives need to know they have a partner in the federal government when asked to respond to national crises. Read the full story:

BACK TO PUERTO RICO — Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will lead a three-day expedition to Puerto Rico today, which will see New York’s two top two health officials return to the island one month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to help with its fiscal crisis. Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, and Jason Helgerson, the state Medicaid director are scheduled to discuss the island's health care system and provide technical assistance as they work to build a case that the federal government should invest money into restructuring Puerto Rico's Medicaid program. Assembly health committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, a Democrat from Manhattan, and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, a Democrat from the Bronx, are also planning to travel to Puerto Rico. [PRO]

IN CASE YOU MISSED — The Public Health and Health Planning Council has approved Columbia Memorial Hospital’s affiliation with Albany Medical Center. In a release, Columbia Memorial Hospital said the affiliation will “create a more efficient health care system and improve access to specialty care for residents of Columbia and Greene counties.” Under the agreement, Columbia Memorial will keep its board of trustees as well as its medical staff and management structure. Columbia Memorial lost $2.2 million in 2013, $550,000 in 2014 and roughly $400,000 in the first half of this year, the Times Union reports. Albany Med, on the other hand, had operating income of $10 million in 2013 and $34.7 million in 2014.

HEROIN TREATMENT FOR INMATES — The Albany Times-Union reports five inmates in the Albany County jail who are struggling with heroin addiction will be the first to live in a special, intensive treatment unit. “The inmates will live together in a modular structure in one of the prison's yards. They have agreed to around-the-clock intervention that includes professional addiction counseling, peer-to-peer sessions and injection of the opiate blocker naltrexone, sold as Vivitrol. In addition, inmates have agreed to be dropped off at a local drug treatment program directly following release from the jail.”


-CALIFORNIA GETS TOUGH ON ANTIBIOTICS — Reuters reports: “California Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a bill that sets the strictest government standards in the United States for the use of antibiotics in livestock production. The move from California, known for its leadership on public health and environmental issues, comes amid growing concern the overuse of such drugs is contributing to rising numbers of life-threatening human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as "superbugs." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 2 million people in this country are infected with drug resistant bacteria each year and that 23,000 die as a direct result.”

...Brown vetoed a "right to try" bill, saying the FDA's "compassionate use" program should be given a chance to work to speed up critically ill people's access to experimental drugs, according to POLITICO.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from North Shore-LIJ, which reminds us to “be mindful when it comes to cleaning. New research suggests hand washing can significantly lower your stress level!”


-SHORTER WOMEN, SHORTER PREGNANCY — Shorter women have shorter pregnancies, according to research from the March of Dimes. "Our finding shows that a mother's height has a direct impact on how long her pregnancy lasts," Dr. Louis Muglia, the primary investigator, said in a press release accompanying the article. "The explanation for why this happens is unclear but could depend not only on unknown genes but also on woman's lifetime of nutrition and her environment."

-ELEPHANT CANCER — Elephants rarely get cancer because they have 20 copies of a gene called TP53, which creates a protein that suppresses tumors. Humans only have just one copy of the gene.

-FIRST BORN PROBLEMS — First-born children in the United Kingdom were more likely to be nearsighted because their parents spend more time worrying about their education, according to a study in JAMA Ophthalmology. The theory is that parents are more likely to force their kids to do school work and are less inclined to let them play outdoors.

** A message from PhRMA: Every day in New York, countless people fight life-threatening diseases. Their bravery inspires countless researchers and scientists across the country in their quest to develop medicines that help patients live longer, healthier lives. Here in New York, the biopharmaceutical industry has invested more than $553 million during the 2,476 clinical trials that took place in 2013 alone. Each step brings us closer to a cure. To learn more, please visit **

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