From Capital News: Capital News 9 | 24 Hour Local News | TOP STORIES | Nursing schools may be in trouble

“It's the most absurd thing I've heard in a long time.”

A federal agency known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, provides reimbursement funding for the country's hospital based nursing schools. CMS has changed their regulations concerning the reimbursements and has already started to sever funds and even demand refunds from programs across the country.

“To allow these cuts to go into effect would be a punch in the gut to all the efforts that have been made in New York State to combat the nursing shortage,” said Senator Charles Schumer.

Schumer, addressing the staff and students of Albany Memorial Hospital's nursing school, said the cuts would only exacerbate an already epidemic shortage of nurses.

“It's not a problem just here in the Capital Region. The nursing shortage is going to double to about 17 percent nationally by the year 2010,” said Schumer.

There are 19 hospital based nursing programs across New York State. If the new CMS regulations go through, the Capital Region in particular would lose $1.8 million next year. Students and officials at Albany Memorial say that would devastate, possibly eliminate, their program.

“Either tuition will have to go up and it won't be affordable. Nursing school is not cheap. Everyone's scraping to get through. Or they'll cut the program and that's sad.,” said nursing student Sophie Winter.

Everything trickles down. While the impending CMS cuts won't affect collegiate based nursing programs, the lack of nurses, specifically nursing management, threatens their students' access to clinical, hands on work.

“Our undergrad program is full and our doors are restricted to the fact that we need clinical instructors to work with the students. If we don't have the faculty to do that, we have to limit our students,” said Arlene Pericak, a nursing professor at the Sage Colleges.

Schumer said he's hopeful the incoming Obama administration will be able to persuade CMS to rethink the changes, thereby bypassing the need for any new legislation.