Meet New SHANYS President/CEO – Wendy Darwell

Greetings.

It has been about a month and a half since I took the reins of the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State (SHANYS) and its regional hospital associations – the Nassau Suffolk Hospital Council and the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association – as president/CEO.  Fresh from my 13-year tenure as chief operating officer for SHANYS and its two regional associations, I can say the transition has been relatively smooth.  But, like it has for all my healthcare colleagues, the pandemic has presented tough challenges and continues to do so.

We began this year with the rollout of two coronavirus vaccines and a directive to get all healthcare workers, or the 1A group, vaccinated.  Our hospitals have made remarkable progress in this area, even while our frontline hospital workers battled a surge of COVID cases following the holiday season.   They have been at this fight for nearly a year, and I marvel at their strength, courage, and tenacity day in and day out.  I know it is physically and emotionally exhausting for them.

Behind the scenes, the Suburban Hospital Alliance has been working to decipher the myriad of COVID-related state and federal regulations directing our hospitals’ actions and daily operations.  There have been hundreds and counting.  It’s our job to help our hospitals understand these rules and the effect of legislation, such as the CARES Act and subsequent versions of it, upon their ability to do their best work every day, while remaining compliant.  The hospital industry in New York is heavily regulated.  That was the case before the pandemic, and it will be the case after the pandemic.

Our hospitals have made remarkable progress . . . even while our frontline hospital workers battled a surge of COVID-19 cases following the holiday season.

Healthcare policy is complicated. Plain and simple.  I spent half my career in Washington, DC, working for the late Congressman Maurice Hinchey, and during that time, I found myself drawn to healthcare policy precisely because it offered a level complexity that appealed to me and still does.  I knew I would never be bored.  That has turned out to be more than true.

I began working at the capitol during the Clinton administration’s attempt to reform healthcare.  Although the effort failed, the policy work that laid the foundation for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would not have happened if comprehensive healthcare reform had not been attempted.  I was no longer working in Washington when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was deliberated and enacted.  It was the best deal the federal government could deliver at the time, and I think we will see it improved. 

It’s important to me to do work that contributes to the greater good.  I began my career in public service and was fortunate some 13 years ago to land at this organization.  Here I have been able to witness firsthand the fruits of healthcare policy borne out in programs that truly help constituents.  For some 20 years, the Hospital Council has overseen insurance enrollment assistance programs that have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of Long Islanders.  On a broader scale, the Suburban Hospital Alliance has influenced the decision-making process at the state and federal levels resulting in policies that are not only rational and practical for hospitals, but ultimately beneficial to patients.  New York’s out-of-network surprise billing law, upon which the recently-enacted federal law is modeled, is a good example.

In normal times, I would be spending my days in Albany right now meeting with legislators and advocating on behalf of our 50 hospitals located in the Long Island and Hudson Valley regions.  I am still doing that, but it is from behind a computer camera and through a zoom link.  It’s an untraditional way to advocate, but our important messages are being communicated just the same.  It’s a new “playbook” for all of us and maybe this makes it the perfect time for me and my organization to get a fresh start.

Please, always feel free to reach out to me or any member of my staff. 

About the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State

The Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State advocates on behalf of hospitals in the Hudson Valley and Long Island regions. It engages key lawmakers and regulatory decision-makers in Albany and Washington to ensure reasonable and rational health care policy prevails.

About the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council (NSHC)   

The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals on Long Island. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NSHC serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals on Long Island.

About the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association (NorMet)  

The Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals in the Hudson Valley region. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NorMet serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals in the Hudson Valley.

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