Open Letter to President Lee Bollinger, Dean Lee Goldman,and the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

4/12/2011, 5:25 p.m.

Medical/Dental Board of

Harlem Hospital Center

Dear Colleagues:

Harlem stood behind you when you needed its support for the Manhattanville expansion. Why do you abandon it now, sitting idly by as medical care at Harlem Hospital is outsourced?

For nearly sixty years, Columbia has supported Harlem Hospital in providing quality care to its neediest. Why do you abandon it now, as neurosurgery and rehabilitation medicine services are being shut down?

Harlem Hospital's Level I Trauma Center leads the state and the nation in injury care and prevention. Why do you abandon it now, by allowing loss of these vital services to threaten its trauma designation?

Harlem Hospital is the only reliable source of specialized tertiary care for the citizens of our community. Why do you abandon it now, as medical and surgical specialty services wither for lack of sufficient staff?

Columbia's support of Harlem Hospital has brought our community many of America's finest physicians. Why do you abandon it now, letting the City bring in less accomplished doctors just to save a few dollars?

Harlem Hospital has championed Columbia's mission to "discover, educate, care, lead" for generations. Why do you abandon it now, as training programs attracting minority doctors and scientists are gutted?

The Medical/Dental Board of Harlem Hospital sees clearly the fiscal challenges facing the City and the University in the current economy. Yet we also recognize the City Comptroller's recent report citing alleged "failures" of monitoring and management on the part of both the Health and Hospitals Corporation and Columbia University, for what so plainly it is--a thinly veiled, shamelessly cynical, politically motivated excuse

to divert a multimillion dollar contract to a favored "vendor" with little experience and a limited record.

The Medical/Dental Board of Harlem Hospital has also not forgotten what ensued at a sister institution a dozen years ago, when the Health and Hospitals Corporation likewise outsourced medical care to nonacademic doctors. What followed was real scandal after real scandal, where real patients died, leading to months of monitoring by State and Federal agencies--unlike the carefully orchestrated, trumped up "scandal" regarding echocardiograms at Harlem Hospital that hurt no one, the full story of which is not being told, because it was easier to blame Columbia doctors than callous administrators.

In truth, Columbia doctors at Harlem Hospital are not only great physicians, they are great people. They do not deserve to be tarred with the brush of alleged incompetence, or worse, when their only "failing" has been to try to do more with less, as staff are cut, their leadership is decimated by firings without cause or due process, and their pleas on behalf of their patients are ignored by heartless executives who have


tragically forgotten that care for our neediest is a right guaranteed by the New York City Charter.

No doubt, Columbia is rightly disgusted by the ongoing efforts to paint it as villain, and rightly dubious of a one sided contractual relationship which encourages the City to treat our University as a cash cow that it simultaneously starves and milks. For it is well known the University has lost tens of millions of dollars over the decades in care it provided that was not properly reimbursed by the City, always with the same lame excuse--there were a few undotted "i"s and uncrossed "t"s in the documentation submitted.