Health visionary Dr. Mitchell Katz tapped by de Blasio to save NYC’s public hospitals
From Brooklyn to LA and back to lead HHC
With cutbacks on the city’s public health care system looming, the highly-lauded head of Los Angeles’ public health system, Dr. Mitchell Katz, has been nominated by Mayor Bill De Blasio to run NYC Health + Hospitals (also known as Health and Hospitals Corp., or HHC).
As director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services for the past five years, Dr. Katz has been called a visionary, an innovator and a fundamentally decent man.
HHC operates the city’s 11 public hospitals, roughly 70 outpatient clinics and five nursing homes, along with diagnostic and treatment centers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned just last week that the city’s public and safety net hospitals could be hit with potentially crippling cuts to Medicaid payments scheduled to take place on Oct. 1. Brooklyn’s HHC hospitals, such as Kings County, would be among the biggest losers. The Republicans’ attack on the Affordable Care Act also threaten the solvency of safety net hospitals, Cuomo said.
With this in mind, De Blasio is counting on Dr. Katz to preserve health care for poor and working class patients.
“With renewed attacks on our health care by Republicans in Washington, it is now more important than ever to put stable leadership in place as we make progress on our plan to expand access to quality, community-based care throughout the city,” de Blasio said. “Dr. Mitchell Katz’s vast experience as physician and public health executive will be an invaluable asset as we work to modernize and save our treasured public hospital system.”
Dr. Katz said in a statement that he was committed to continue de Blasio’s efforts to help preserve HHC’s safety net mission and improve access to health care services for all New Yorkers.
Dr. Katz is a native of Brooklyn who will be returning home not only to run the nation’s largest public healthcare system, but to care for his two elderly parents, according to the LA Times. He has two developmentally disabled siblings; he and his partner have two children.
Katz told the LA Times that he had struggled during the last year knowing his parents needed help but not wanting to leave his job in Los Angeles.
“This is an opportunity for me to do the work I love and take care of my parents,” he said.
LA’s loss was called New York City’s gain, and praise for Dr. Katz has been unstinting.
“Dr. Mitch Katz revolutionized Los Angeles County’s public health care system,” LA County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a statement. “He led the charge in implementing the Affordable Care Act, delivering more services to more patients than ever before, including providing permanent supportive housing to the homeless. In many respects, he is without peer as a transformational leader and practitioner in the public sector.”
Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske said Dr. Katz’s health care management skills would be a “tremendous asset to Health + Hospitals, and New York’s entire health care community is thrilled by his selection.”
Katz was called “a fundamentally decent man” by Dr. Steven Safyer, CEO and President of Montefiore Medicine.
HHC interim head Stanley Brezenoff will be stepping down at the end of the year. Brezenoff said he was “delighted” with the choice.
“I will leave this interim assignment knowing we are putting the future of this essential organization in very capable hands,” he said.
Some accomplishments in LA
Dr. Katz created LA’s ambulatory care network and enrolled more than 350,000 patients into a primary care “home,” according to a press release from NYC. He eliminated a deficit at LA’s Department of Health Services through increased revenues and decreased administrative expenses, and used new ACA funding to pay for a modern electronic health system.
He also moved more than 1,000 patients labeled as “medically complex” from hospitals and emergency departments into independent housing, “eliminating unnecessary expensive hospital care and giving the patients the dignity of their own home.”
Dr. Katz continues to see patients every week, the city said. He is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Medical School. He completed an internal medicine residency at UCSF Medical School and was an RWJ Clinical Scholar.
He is the Deputy Editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (previously the Institute of Medicine) and the recipient of the Los Angeles County Medical Association 2015 Healthcare Champion of the year.
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