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Where will they go? Hospital closures plague workers and patients

Stephon Johnson | 8/1/2013, 10:59 a.m. | Updated on 8/1/2013, 10:59 a.m.

Fighting against the inevitable? Not if nurses and activists have it their way.

Even though Long Island College Hospital (LICH) hasn’t officially closed, SUNY Downstate began the shutdown a while ago. Last week, a state Supreme Court justice upheld the temporary restraining order against SUNY Downstate to prevent them from closing LICH after absolving them of being in contempt for attempting to close the hospital anyway.

Claiming that the hospital was losing too much money, SUNY Downstate aimed to discharge all patients from LICH by this past Sunday. SUNY Downstate also claimed that it’s losing $15 million a month operating the Cobble Hill-based facility and is looking to sell it.

But LICH isn’t the only hospital that could meet its untimely demise at the hands of administrators.

Last Friday, July 26, protesters took to Borough Hall in Brooklyn to protest the possible closure of not only LICH, but of Interfaith Medical Center (IMC) as well. That Thursday, IMC met the deadline to submit a closure plan after the hospital filed for bankruptcy last December. On top of the closure plan, officials submitted one more restructuring plan, hoping that the New York State Health Department wouldn’t force them to shut down. IMC’s the only fully-operating medical facility in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

Two out of every five patients at IMC are HIV-positive.

With St. Luke’s Hospital possibly losing its level one trauma center status, it seems like health care is under fire wherever you go in the city.

On Wednesday, July 31, New York City mayoral candidate and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and health care workers from 1199SEIU kicked off a “Save Our Hospitals” tour of health facilities across Brooklyn that are struggling like LICH, IMC, Wyckoff and Brookdale Hospitals. All of the aforementioned facilitates are at risk of losing major facilities or complete closure.

“There are a lot of people out there who don’t have the stomach for this fight,” said de Blasio in a statement. “The mayor doesn’t. The other candidates running to replace him don’t. We can’t afford another mayor who treats hospital closures as inevitable and are content to see entire neighborhoods stripped of their basic health care.”

“I know which side I’m on,” continued de Blasio. “It’s not the real estate developers’. It’s not the high-priced consultants bleeding these hospitals dry. It’s with the communities that can’t afford to lose one more hospital.”

The hospital closures have become an issue in this year’s mayoral race for another reason. Unions and activists have been calling out candidate Bill Thompson.

Health care workers this week called for Thompson to release his 2010 and 2011 tax returns. According to 1199SEIU, the returns would show that he received compensation from Kurron Capital, the firm that ran IMC and St. John’s. Thompson served as a paid member of Kurron Capital’s advisory board during that time.

According to 1199SEIU, in addition to compensation Thompson received from Kurron Capital, Kurron CEO Corbett Price, his family, employees and firm members have also donated close to $20,000 to Thompson’s campaigns over the years. Under Price, there have been mass layoffs of hospital workers and cuts in patient services.

Health care workers want Thompson to return any campaign contributions he’s received from Price, his firm and his associates.

“If you’re running for public office and you want to be the mayor of our city, we need to know where your money’s coming from,” said Jeanette Harper, a patient care technician in the Interfaith Emergency Room, in a statement. “Keeping Interfaith open is a matter of life and death for our patients, and they have been put in danger because of the mismanagement of high-priced consultants.”