January 22, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Don’t put away your wallet just yet, Andrew.
Now that Governor Cuomo wants the state to fund universal pre-K, advocates for imperiled Brooklyn hospitals facing closure insist that the chief executive in Albany should also make sure that Interfaith Medical Center and Long Island Hospital [LICH] both have enough money to stay afloat. Doing otherwise, they say – would be ‘damned criminal.”
On Tuesday morning, while lawyers for Interfaith Medical Center argued against the state’s attempt to defund the hospital in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, New York City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D-35th District) called the looming shut down of that vital facility, as well as LICH, “irresponsible” and “dangerous.”
“[Governor Cuomo], you made the decision to fund universal Pre-K,” Councilwoman Cumbo said. “And in the same way that you did that, we are calling on that same level of humanity, [for you] to now fund our hospitals.”
The newly-elected councilwoman made her remarks during a joint SEIU 1199/New York State Nurses Association [NYSNA] rally held in front of the Downtown Brooklyn Courthouse.
Advocates fighting to avert the loss of vital services and thousands of jobs say they are not asking for a “handout” – simply a return on resources that come out of taxpayers’ weekly paychecks.
Linda O’Neil, a registered nurse at LICH for over 30 years, put an even finer point on the controversy saying, “To even think of closing any hospitals is not only irresponsible – I’ll go as far as to say, it’s damned criminal.”
Both LICH and Interfaith are reportedly in the red and in need of vital funding. But last week, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York attempted to justify cutting off critical funding to Interfaith Medical Center because the hospital’s board voted to continue operating its own clinics, rather than turn them over to Kingsbrook Medical Center on January 26. When funds from the state were not provided following that, Interfaith’s CEO Patrick Sullivan, who has already announced his resignation, ordered ambulances diverted from Interfaith’s emergency room.
Despite all that, Interfaith is reportedly operating at over 100 percent capacity and recently even had to reopen an entire floor that had been ordered closed for over a year – supposedly due to underutilization.
“We don’t have room to put the patients,” said Sharonnie Perry, chairwoman of the Interfaith Hospital’s Community Advisory Board. “The emergency room is bursting at the seams.”
Operating technicians at LICH relate similar conditions there.
“The mood inside is depressed,” said Trudy Llewellyn. “Nobody knows from one day to the next what their status is going to be – meaning we don’t know how we’re going to support our kids going forward.”
In response, Councilman Councilman Robert Cornegy, Jr. (D-District 36), is calling on Governor Cuomo to put a stop to any plan that includes shutting down hospitals.
“I just want the governor to take a look at the combination of LICH and Interfaith [Medical Center] and realize there needs to be a moratorium on hospital closures in the borough of Brooklyn,” Councilman Cornegy said.
SEIU Vice-President Bruce Richard invoked Mayor de Blasio’s “Tale of Two Cities” inaugural reference in calling for innovation new ways to spare “safety net” hospitals like Interfaith and LICH from further disruptions.
“We call on all of the voices of reason,” Richard said. “Let’s call for a new day. Let’s not keep operating around these safety net hospitals in the same old way. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the community to have a greater say. It’s time for workers to have a greater voice. It’s time for us to make healthcare really work here.”
NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo also put the governor on notice.
“We will not let them shut down our hospitals,” Furillo said. “We will keep these hospitals open for care. Every politician – anybody that is in a position of power – must understand that. We’re not going anywhere.”