SUNY Downstate workers rally to save jobs

Eulene Inniss | 9/19/2013, 2:51 p.m.

Moving through the corridor of busy Clarkson Avenue in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, passers-by become sandwiched between two towering edifices, Kings County Hospital and SUNY Downstate University Hospital of Brooklyn. An onlooker may see a strong image of a viable community where health care is paramount. But looks can be deceptive.

Workers from SUNY Downstate University Hospital of Brooklyn held a demonstration on Friday, Sept. 12 with 200 employees. AFL-CIO was one of the many unions represented at the demonstration. AFL-CIO delegate Don Morgenstern said, “University Hospital has a plan to cut the size of the hospital in half. Over the course of one year, 400 employees were given pink slips, some with only 30 days notice. One hundred employees are to be laid off this month, and most of them are low-level staff. The hospital is now 100 nurses short. Care in the critical care unit has become dangerous care. The emergency room is probably one of the busiest ERs in the city, and staff there is not enough.” The hospital serves mostly the poor, minorities, immigrants and seniors. 5

Morgenstern continued, “In June of 2013, the hospital made profits in excess of $1 million dollars, and there is no reason for the layoffs since over the months the hospital continued to be profitable. Nurses have caseloads of 10 to 12 patients, and the neo-natal care unit has one nurse serving four babies instead of a 1-to-1 ratio.”

Rabbi Eli Cohen’s message to the demonstrators was that the Jewish community is aware that services at this hospital are needed. “The decision to lay off employees is hurting families, and enough is enough. Give better care to the people of Brooklyn,” he said, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene and fund the hospital.

Each speaker discussed the impact the layoffs will have on families and the community as a whole. Victor Jordan, a member of Community Board 17, said, “The board has been reaching out to the community to raise their consciousness of the importance of Downstate, not only in terms of service, but also employment, since Downstate provides jobs for small businesses in the community.”

It seems as though a conscious decision has already been made by those with power to downsize or close many selected Brooklyn hospitals. Long Island College Hospital, Interfaith Hospital, Brooklyn Hospital and SUNY Downstate University Hospital all have one thing in common, and that is location. These hospitals all serve residents with the greatest health care needs. All eyes are still looking to Cuomo and Albany for solutions, but there seems to be a deafening silence coming from Albany, so the residents unions, employees and supporters continue to hold regular demonstration in a concerted effort of keeping the pressure on. They say it is the last option, their only hope.