November 1, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Michael Bloomberg was booed on the steps of City Hall this week as DC 37 and a broad coalition of other labor unions, citizen advocacy groups and health care watchdogs denounced the outgoing mayor’s efforts to cut health care services and shutter clinics in the waning days of his administration. Watch Video
“It has been made abundantly clear that the last remaining days of the Bloomberg administration have one sole purpose – and that’s to lay waste to as many public services as he can,” said Raglan George, executive director, DC1707.
North Central Bronx Hospital recently saw its Labor and Delivery Department close, while many of the city’s nine STD clinics are slated to soon have their hours of operation slashed. And although granted a temporary reprieve this fall, two immunization clinics in Queens and the Bronx are still scheduled for closure by the end of the year.
“This is not the time to cut back on the delivery of health services in the City of New York,” said Councilwoman Letitia James. “I would urge Mayor Bloomberg in his last hours to cease and desist from engaging in any cuts to the delivery of health care services in the City of New York.”
Unlike the present executive, the city’s next public advocate said that Bloomberg’s likely successor – mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio – will make the delivery of healthcare services a priority for his Democratic administration.
“Stopping the closure of hospitals, stopping the closure of clinics in the City of New York needs to be a priority particularly at a time when we are seeing an increase in a wide-range of diseases throughout the city,” Councilwoman James added.
Despite impressive gains combatting the disease, New York City continues to be the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. Lesser, although still serious STDs like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis, also remain problematic in areas slated for reduced healthcare services.
Anthony Feliciano director, Commission on the Public’s Health System, said that for far too long now, both labor and the community has been locked out of the decision-making process when it comes to health care delivery.
“You cannot have access if you’re overburdening the union members who provide that access and who do the work,” Feliciano said. “We are going to fight to change the way the Department of Health practices and manages. The experts are not just the Department of Health – the experts are here, too. Labor and community needs to have a place at the table.”
Judith Arroyo, head of Local 436, United Federation of Nurses & Epidemiologists, blasted DOH bigwigs for spending too much time collecting statistics, publishing self-serving articles and crafting television spots.
“While statistics are fine to tell you where the problem is, you have to do something once you identify the problem,” Arroyo said. “And this Department of Health, instead of doing something about the problems they are identifying, they are cutting back on services.”
Mayor Bloomberg and a couple of aides appeared to be trying to slip into City Hall unnoticed while the DC 37 rally was in progress on Wednesday morning, but they were not successful and instead recieved an earful of jeers from participants.
Local 420 President Carmen Charles assailed city officials for trying to divide coalition members.
“I’m here to today to speak not only on behalf of my members, but to speak for the patients,” Charles said. “We are constantly fighting to preserve services. Healthcare is a right. It’s not a privilege. The powers that be at HHC [Health and Hospitals Corporation] and City Hall need to know that when we are a healthy nation, we are a productive nation.”