“Gov. Cuomo will be signing the death warrants of hundreds if not thousands of people from the Central Brooklyn area if he does not stop the effort to close Interfaith,” said activist minister the Rev. Herbert Daughtry. “This community and beyond needs this hospital. Thousands of people rely on it.”
A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the AmNews, “State officials are working tirelessly to ensure that residents served by Interfaith continue to receive quality health care services in their community. The governor is fully committed to finding a solution that not only maintains current services in the community, but also lays the groundwork for long-term investments that will improve overall health outcomes and meet the area’s health care needs.”
Meanwhile, it’s been a trying week for those supporting hospitals that are on the brink of closing, but that doesn’t mean their work stops. Last week, court papers revealed that the hospital requested that bankruptcy proceedings begin as soon as possible. The New York State Health Department rejected a restructuring plan and refused financial help until Interfaith begins its shutdown process.
Initially, bankruptcy proceedings were set to be held on Aug. 15 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of New York. As part of the schedule, ifapproved, closing calls for inpatient admissions would end this week, and the emergency room would close on Sept. 14 once ambulances were diverted from the emergency. Inpatient services and outpatient services would be done by the middle of October, and the process would end with the closing of the rehabilitation centers on Nov. 14.
This week, however, it was announced that bankruptcy hearings would be pushed back from Aug. 15 to Aug. 26. That gives activists and the New York State Nurses Association time to regroup and figure out the future of their livelihoods and Interfaith.
In a letter to his constituents, New York City mayoral candidate and current Public Advocate Bill de Blasio addressed the slated closings of Interfaith and Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and the necessity of Brooklynites having a hospital they can get to quickly in case of an emergency.
“New York City has already lost more than a dozen hospitals in the past decade, contributing to a growing health care crisis,” wrote de Blasio. “It is important that New Yorkers are aware of these imminent service cuts, which could dramatically increase travel time to the nearest hospital for more than 250,000 Brooklyn residents.”
“As I write, two safety-net hospitals in Brooklyn—Interfaith Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital (L.I.C.H.)—are poised to shut their doors,” continued De Blasio. “And four more neighborhood hospitals—Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Kingsbridge Jewish, Brookdale and SUNY Downstate—are teetering on the brink. We cannot afford to lose these vital health care facilities, and we will keep fighting to keep their doors open.“
It might have been midnight on Saturday, but that didn’t stop a host of Central Brooklyn residents from belting out at the top of their lungs, “Keep Interfaith open, Cuomo!” while City Council candidate Jelani Mashariki marched around the embattled hospital on Atlantic Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Doctors and nurses fired up residents, activists and political figures such as Comptroller John Liu, Jelani Mashiriki and District Leader Robert Cornegy for the overnight vigil this past weekend.
With a chair perched just outside the entrance, Daughtry told the AmNews, “Yup, I’m gonna be here all night. We are fighting for the health care and lives of the people of Crown Heights.“
“We are going to do everything we can to save this hospital,” said mayoral candidate and current City Comptroller John Liu. ”If Interfaith closes, tens of thousands of Central Brooklyn residents will be affected, and there will be a ripple effect throughout Brooklyn and New York City. City Hall has been absurd in its position that these are private hospitals—and you’ve neither seen or heard a peep out of Mayor Bloomberg with more than a dozen hospital closings over these past several years. What we need is a City Hall that is more active in trying to keep these hospitals open.”
As he paused from marching outside the hospital, Dr. Albert Cooper told the AmNews, “This is a strong indication of the need for adequate health care facilities and resources in our community, especially at a time when we are about to implement a major national health care policy—the Affordable Care Act.”
Cooper spoke of how he had just helped a stabbing victim who was able to walk to the hospital because of the proximity. A gunshot victim was rushed to Interfaith too and was able to be saved. “We need to keep this facility open as a full service community hospital,” he said.
Robert Cornegy, who, like Daughtry and Mashiriki, stayed the whole 12 hours, told the AmNews that saving the hospital should be a no-brainer. “Our Brooklyn delegation this week has a meeting with the governor, which is significant because, up to this date, the governor has not responded to request to meet, so this is a sign that we have a chance,” he said.
The delegation includes Reps. Velmanette Montgomery, Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries.
Mashiriki, who is running to replace Councilwoman Letitia James in the Clinton Hill-Fort Greene neighborhood, said, “Interfaith is an essential part of this community, and we are going to keep it open.
“This has a lot to do with real estate. They are going after Long Island College Hospital partly because of logistics,” the social activist continued. “That hospital is on the waterfront. Some people think they want the land to turn it into luxury condos with a view, rather than keep it as a hospital for the sick and healing.”