HMC receives COVID aid through Neal’s advocacy

July 29, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

Congressman Richard Neal announced funding for Holyoke Medical Center on July 25.
Reminder Publishing photo by G.Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE – After the intervention and advocacy by Congress Richard Neal, the Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) with $8.7 million from Provider Relief Fund’s second round of high impact COVID-19 area funding to hospitals.

Neal announced the grant at a press event at HMC on July 25.

The chair of the House Ways & Means Committee explained that HMC was initially denied any such funding because of a restrictive formula. Neal spoke to Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services about the situation; a conversation that Neal admitted became “a little tense at times.”

Neal was able to arrange a telephone meeting between the under secretary and HMC President and CEO Spiros Haritas. In that conversation it came to light that HMC had taken on the responsibility of assisting the Holyoke Solders Home by accepting 45 veterans who were at the time not suffering from COVID-19.

Haritas said, without Neal’s assistance, HMC would be “in a very different position than we are today.”

He added the funding will help the medical center recover from the effects of the pandemic in terms of losses and expenditures. HMC had furloughed 300 employees, and although many of them have been brought back, he added the funding will allow the facility to bring the rest back. It will also pay for additional protective equipment for staff.

Neal said in a released statement, “This money is a lifeline for providers who are caring for the COVID patients and others in the community who need quality health care, and Holyoke Medical Center is one of the best. The COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a health crisis. This funding will help support patients, providers, and frontline health workers. Holyoke also stepped up and took on patients from the Holyoke Soldiers Home when it was overwhelmed with COVID-related infections. Thanks to their help, many veterans received the care they needed during a troubling time.”

 Haritas said, “I am personally comforted he will be in Washington advocating for us.”

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