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Lowey Praises Ebola Preparedness Level, But Blasts Congress For CDC Cuts

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey of Harrison, center, speaks with Dr. Renee Garrick, right, executive medical director of the Westchester Medical Center. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, center, meeting with a dozen top directors from regional hospitals on Monday about the Ebola outbreak. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey at Monday's news conference at Westchester Medical Center Photo Credit: Provided

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- After an hour-long meeting with regional hospital directors Monday, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey praised the level of preparedness for an Ebola outbreak but lashed out at the Republican-led Congress for cutting federal money aimed at fighting deadly diseases.

During a news conference at the Westchester County Medical Center, Lowey, a Democrat from Harrison and the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said Congress cut $755 million last year in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A link to the proposed cuts can be found here.

Various CDC and National Institutes of Health officials have complained that cuts in federal funding hampered their ability to react to the deadly Ebola outbreak and develop a vaccine to prevent an outbreak within the United States.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was not immediately available for comment on Lowey's charges.

Lowey said Congress has allocated $1.1 billion in recent weeks to respond to the Ebola crisis, which killed its first patient on U.S. soil in Texas earlier this month and contaminated two Dallas nurses. "Our hospitals have done an extraordinary job,'' Lowey said while flanked by a dozen directors from area hospitals. "It was an extraordinarily productive meeting.

"I am going to be fighting in the coming weeks,'' Lowey said. "We will continue to fight Ebola and restore budget cuts. ... This should not even be a partisan issue.

"They assured me they are ready,'' Lowey said of medical officials from Westchester and Rockland counties, but "they need additional training. They need additional resources."

Dr. Renee Garrick, executive medical director at Westchester Medical Center, said the Valhalla-based facilities plan to build a new wing that will specialize in infectious diseases.

Westchester is not one of eight medical centers designated to take Ebola patients in the New York metropolitan area, Garrick said, however, "The front-line staff has been trained. The last thing we want to do is have a patient with Ebola being allowed to wait in the waiting room. The hospitals in this region are absolutely prepared."

Dr. Scott M. Klein, chief medical officer at Blythedale Children's Hospital, noted that the Ebola outbreak, while limited in the U.S., has in many ways created much fear and anxiety. "Emergency departments are dealing with a lot of scared patients,'' Klein said.

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