Sen. Blake Statement on Geisinger and TCMC Partnership

SCRANTON, September 28, 2016 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today released the following statement regarding the announcement that Geisinger Health System will acquire The Commonwealth Medical College:

“Today’s announcement of the partnership between Geisinger Health Systems and The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) represents one of the most significant developments in our regional health care industry in recent memory.

I applaud Geisinger president and CEO, Dr. David Feinberg; TCMC president and Dean, Dr. Steven Scheinman; and the Boards of Directors for both of these wonderful institutions for their shared vision and their recognition of the compatibility of their missions. This collaboration holds endless possibilities for the future of health care in Lackawanna County and indeed throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The prospect for increased investment in research and in clinical and academic enhancements at the new Geisinger Commonwealth Medical College (GCMC) will be transformative. In addition, GCMC can look with great confidence toward future accreditation processes. I am certain that this partnership will make the City of Scranton a national leader in medical research and health care.

I look forward to continuing to build on the strong partnership between state government and the new Geisinger Commonwealth Medical College.”

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Blake: Marcellus Shale Region Cancer Study is Investment in Health and Future of PA

Sen Blake speaks at news conference

SCRANTON, July 7, 2011 – – State Sen. John P. Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today joined the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute at Lackawanna College to announce a $75,000 state grant to conduct a health survey in the areas of Northeastern Pennsylvania affected by Marcellus shale drilling operations.

The study, which will be conducted by Cancer Institute researchers, will determine the current health status of the population in Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Pike Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne and Wyoming counties and establish an important baseline of data for future comparisons and research regarding public health in the areas impacted by Marcellus operations.

“Research is one of the most important tools in the fight against all cancers and this grant shows the state’s faith in the quality of research being conducted here in Scranton,” Blake said. “It is imperative that the health and well-being of Pennsylvania residents be the number one priority as the Marcellus industry expands in our state.”

The specific goals of the survey are to estimate the prevalence of a variety of acute and chronic medical conditions among residents living in counties where natural gas production has begun or is likely, as well as estimate the prevalence of known health risk factors in this population. At least 500 survey participants will be recruited for the study.

“With 20 years of experience in cancer control and more than a decade of experience conducting epidemiological research in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the Cancer Institute is very glad to be able to provide the community with this valuable information on public health in the Marcellus shale region,” added Robert Durkin, president of the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute. “The Institute welcomes the support of Pennsylvania’s Northeast delegation in the General Assembly as well as the support of the Corbett Administration through the Department of Public Welfare.”

The grant is being administered by the Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare.

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Blake: Alarming Budget Cuts Jeopardize Quality of Education and Health Care

HARRISBURG, June 28, 2011 – – Calling the Republican passed $27.15 billion state budget a short-sighted solution that creates bigger problems, state Sen. John P. Blake today criticized the drastic cuts to local school districts, hospitals and other key state investments.

The budget, passed by a 30-20 party-line vote, cuts more than $1.1 billion in state funding to public schools and 18 state-supported universities; including $51.5 million from Northeastern Pennsylvania school districts.

It is unfortunate for the residents of Pennsylvania that the deliberations for this state budget were not only ideologically driven, but they were focused on short term spending decisions and not on the long term impact of state investment, Blake said. The final budget document reveals a retreat from the commitments most Pennsylvanians hold as our states top priorities – – education, adequate health care, and job creation.

Education funding, an investment in the future of Pennsylvania and the future of our children, was cut by more than $1 billion and will cause a ripple effect of teacher and support staff layoffs and probable local real estate tax hikes, Blake continued. The only silver lining in this otherwise slash and burn budget is that we were able to restore at least some funding to The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) and our Regional Cancer Center.

Blake said that TCMC will receive a $2 million appropriation under the Department of Public Welfares medical assistance program for state-related academic medical centers — a 50% cut from last year. It is hoped that TCMC will be able draw down an additional $2 million in federal funds as a result of the state commitment made in this budget. The states four regional cancer centers will receive $450,000 under the final budget, representing a $542,000 cut.

The lack of funding available to TCMC had already caused a national accreditation body to place the states newest medical college on probation, Blake added. If the preliminary budget completely eliminating state funding to TCMC was passed, it would have put the future operations at TCMC in grave danger.

Blake also expressed dissatisfaction with the cuts to the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) and the Human Services Development Fund. HEMAP, which provides emergency mortgage assistance to struggling homeowners and helps keep them in their homes while they get back on sound financial footing, received only $2 million in this budget, an $8.4 million cut from last year. The Human Services Development Fund, which provides funding to county human service organizations, received $15 million, an $8.5 million cut.

The final budget ignored savings that could have prevented the depth of the cuts rendered by the Corbett Administration and Republican leadership in the House and Senate, Blake said. In addition, over $500 million in state revenue above estimate in this fiscal year is being held in reserve and the legislature again failed to enact a reasonable fee on the Marcellus shale industry — a fee they pay in every other state where they operate.

Blake said that many cost savings that Senate Democrats have discussed over the past few months were largely ignored in the final budget document. Specifically savings through alternative sentencing and treatment courts to reduce Corrections expenditures; procurement reform as recommended by the Auditor General; and the possibility of expanding managed care in counties where it has not been implemented and which could save the state millions of dollars.

It is clear that the Governor and the General Assembly had to be fiscally responsible when crafting a state budget to deal with a $4 billion deficit. As Pennsylvania continues to struggle to exit the recession, making deep and, in fact, unnecessary cuts to education, human services and proven state job creation and job retention programs is anything but responsible budgeting, Blake said. This budget was, unfortunately, negotiated in a very partisan manner and without the transparency that would have resulted in a more balanced and appropriate plan for our state.
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Blake, Senate Dems Call for Essential Health Care Funding Restorations

Sen. Blake speaks at Capitol news conference

HARRISBURG, June 15, 2011 – – State Sen. John P. Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today led a host of Senate Democrats and medical professionals in a call to restore the potentially disastrous cuts proposed to Pennsylvania’s medical schools, bioscience investments and regional cancer centers.

“As elected officials, we hold many responsibilities to our constituents, none of which are more essential than protecting their health and well-being,” Blake said. “Regrettably, the budget proposals that have thus far been circulated make deep cuts that jeopardize the health of our citizens and erode the quality of health care that will be available to Pennsylvania families for years to come.”

Today’s news conference put the spotlight on state investment versus state spending. Senate Democrats argued that proven, successful investments and preventative cost-saving approaches, such as the Life Science Greenhouses (LSG) program and Pennsylvania’s life-saving Regional Cancer Centers, should be spared from the proverbial budget axe.

Blake said that through February 15 of this year, LSGs have been responsible for 3,175 new jobs, 2,763 jobs retained, 136 new companies supported and the creation of an estimated 20,006 indirect jobs through prudent early stage investment that has leveraged millions in private commitments to new and promising life science technologies and innovations.

“If we are serious about our competitive position in life science research and early stage investment and if we are serious about saving health care expenditures over the long term, we need to sustain essential state investments in the Life Science Greenhouses and our indispensable Regional Cancer Centers,” Blake added. “Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the country and our four Regional Cancer Centers have advanced an increased level of screening, improved stage of diagnosis and lives saved; effectively saving Pennsylvania millions of dollars in the future in unnecessary and unaffordable Medicaid costs.”

Blake was joined at the news conference by Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Democratic Appropriations Chair Vince Hughes (D-Philadelphia) and state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia).

“From an economic standpoint, we have to realize that modest investments in our state-related academic medical centers are multiplied several times over when you take into account the private and federal dollars which flow into Pennsylvania as a result of the success of these institutions,” Costa said. “We can’t lose sight of the big picture and make reductions now that will cost us in years to come.”

Another concern of Senate Democrats is the potentially crippling funding reductions proposed to the state’s medical schools, specifically the two-year old Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) in Scranton. State funding for TCMC was completely eliminated in both Gov. Corbett’s and the House Republicans’ budget proposals.

“With the average age of Pennsylvania’s practicing physicians reaching nearly 49 years old, we need to create incentives and opportunities to keep our best and brightest here in the state,” Blake said. “The cuts proposed to TCMC will not only put the operations of the college at risk, but will also have a adverse impact on the students, employees and the quality of patient care available in Northeastern Pennsylvania going forward.”

“On Monday the state Senate, by a party line vote, adopted Senate Resolution 100, which creates a temporary rule that forecloses upon our ability in the minority caucus of the Senate to suggest amendments to the budget that would authorize the use of excess revenue from this fiscal year to restore the cuts proposed by the Governor and by House Republicans to education, health care and human services for the next fiscal year,” Blake said. “Before a budget is returned to the House, we need bi-partisan support to make common-sense restorations to these programs and services that provide long-term benefits and long-term savings for all Pennsylvanians.”

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Blake, Sec. Avila Tour Commonwealth Medical College, Discuss Public Health Initiatives

Sen. Blake and Sec. Avila

SCRANTON, May 20, 2011 – – State Senator John P. Blake and Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Eli Avila today toured The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) and discussed the importance of public health initiatives and public health research with medical students and faculty.

“The Commonwealth Medical College is one of the most important assets in the city of Scranton and in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Blake said. “This first-class medical college is graduating brilliant young doctors that will only continue to improve the quality of health care provided at our hospitals, clinics and medical centers throughout the state.”

Blake and Sec. Avila joined TCMC senior officials for a walking tour of the campus and discussed the needs and goals of the state’s newest medical college with staff and students.

“This Commonwealth has a strong tradition of developing medicine and public health. We are the home of the country’s first medical school and the first medical school for women,” Secretary Avila said. “I am honored to stand at Lackawanna College and at TCMC’s new Medical Sciences Building, meeting first year students as they prepare to aid us in providing quality care for all Pennsylvanians. Together, we can continue to meet the public health needs of our residents and ensure that access to care is available to all.”

TCMC offers both a Medical Degree (MD) program and a Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBS) degree. Over the next 20 years, the medical school expects to add 425 qualified, diverse practicing physicians to Northeastern Pennsylvania. In addition, the medical school is expected to add $70 million to the local economy and create 1,000 new jobs that directly and indirectly support the school’s operations.

“While everyone understands the fiscal strains on Pennsylvania’s state budget, I believe this tour and this discussion with Secretary Avila will prove beneficial for the TCMC,” Blake said. “After witnessing the quality of the facility and the extraordinary value of the research, education and training taking place at TCMC and, of course, after talking with students who are excited about their chosen profession to provide quality medical care, I believe Secretary Avila will understand the importance of the state’s investment in this facility and in its future operations.”

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