February 26, 2104
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – A week after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a deal intended to keep Long Island College Hospital operating as a full-service facility benefitting the community, staffers and their allies at Interfaith Medical Center in Crown Heights made their pitch for a piece of an $8 billion Medicaid waiver pie that could help resuscitate the struggling Atlantic Avenue Hospital.
Interfaith Medical Center filed for bankruptcy in 2011, and is now in talks with the state to remain open. But successfully securing the funds needed to keep the 287-bed facility operating won’t be easy.
“It is important to understand that this is a competitive process,” New York City Public Advocate Letitia James told supporters outside the hospital on Monday morning. “It’s not like the money will be granted to Interfaith. We have got to compete.”
Interfaith Medical Center presently employs about 200 nurses and more than 1500 full-time healthcare professionals overall, represented by SEIU 1199 and New York State Nurses Association [NYSNA]. The hospital also provides 200,000 outpatient clinic visits each year – 90,000 of those related to behavioral health.
Sharonnie Perry, chair of the hospital’s Community Advisory Board, is confident that Interfaith is well prepared to fight for its share of needed funding from the state. At the same time, the longtime advocate says that coalition partners are looking beyond the state for help.
“The coalition is working on an alternative health plan – a plan that’s going to be able to bring resources into the hospital, so we just don’t have to wait on the government to give us money, but we’ll have money to sustain ourselves,” Perry said.
The details of that plan are expected to be released shortly.
According to Ari Mona, a NYSNA representative and an RN at Interfaith for almost 20 years, the short-staffed hospital has already begun hiring more nurses.
“We’re bringing nurses onboard,” Mona said. “Once we know where we’re going, we are gong to fill up all the vacancies.”
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer denounced what he called an “attempted dismantling of the Brooklyn healthcare network” and the faulty rationale behind citywide actions that have already resulted in the closure of 15 public hospitals over the last 12 years – and now threatens the futures of Interfaith Medical Center, LICH and SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
“Every bed you take away today, you can’t get back five or ten years from now when you realize you made a mistake,” Stringer said. “So, let’s draw a line in the sand with Interfaith. Don’t tell us to take some second-rate healthcare option. Whether it’s LICH or Interfaith – we cannot accept anything less – because if you take it apart, you cannot build it back.”
In 10 years, the city’s top numbers man says that rising costs will simply be too prohibitive to build new facilities.
“Ten years from now, they’re going to say to you, ‘Well, we should never have dismantled it in the first place because now it’s much too expensive,’” Stringer said. “It’s economics 101 – don’t mess with the infrastructure you have because it costs 10 and 20 times more to bring it back.”
Public Advocate James vowed that the plan to revitalize healthcare in the borough will be built “from the ground up, from the people – and not from the top down.”
“We made tremendous progress with regard to Long Island College Hospital,” The public advocate from Brooklyn said. “And the community will have a say in their healthcare needs. And we are hoping that here at Interfaith that the community will have a say regarding the healthcare needs of Central Brooklyn. We are working to make sure that someone in Central Brooklyn gets the same attention as someone in Midtown Manhattan.”