July 16, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
Brooklyn, NY—Nurses and healthcare workers rallied outside SUNY Downstate Medical Center to save three hospitals in Brooklyn from closing as the SUNY board met to decide the fate of Long Island College Hospital. Watch Video
Nurses with the New York State Nurses Association and health care workers with 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East who work at LICH and Interfatith Medical Center said morale among workers at the facilities are at an all-time low as the threat of closure hovers over them.
Jeanie Siegel, who has worked at LICH for 23 years as a respiratory therapist and is a NYSNA member, said LICH management is so desperate to engineer a crisis that it has gone so far as to prevent attending physicians from admitting their patients and discourage patients from staying after they enter the emergency room.
SUNY Downstate, which took over LICH in 2011, withdrew an earlier plan to close the hospital in favor of finding a new owner. But so far there’s no new owner.
Council Member Letitia James joined protesters outside SUNY Downstate and said that the state has to provide emergency funding not only to keep the hospitals open for care but as a source for decent-paying middle-class jobs.
“The closing of hospitals in Brooklyn would have a major impact on Brooklyn’s economy. To have them closed for the purposes of building more luxury housing is just unacceptable and that’s why we are here today.”
She noted that residents in central Brooklyn suffer from numerous ailments and therefore the borough can least afford to lose safety net hospitals.
“We need SUNY to delay action on the closure of LICH and time to allow for the plan for Interfaith to merge with Brooklyn Hospital and we need an emergency cash infusion to save LICH,” said James.
Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who was arrested last week during a protest in the lobby of the offices of the State University of New York, said the next mayor, unlike Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will have to stand up and fight for the city’s hospitals.
When asked what it was like getting arrested, Mr. de Blasio said it had to be done.
“There’s times when civil disobedience is a thing to do to make the point. And it’s drawn a lot of attention to this issue, and I’m glad I did it,” said de Blasio.