December 20, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The looming closings of Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith Medical Center may come down to dollars and cents to the bean counters holding the purse strings – but for the patients, labor unions and nurses fighting to keep the doors open at the Brooklyn hospitals, it is a matter of life and death.
“If the hospitals close, people are going to die,” Rev. Taharka Robinson told LaborPress outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan offices on Thursday, December 19.
Rev. Robinson, a member of Interfaith’s Community Advisory Board, joined hundred of others supports on 3rd Avenue yesterday trying to convince the state’s chief executive to take action that could prevent LICH and Interfaith Medical Center from closing as early as next week.
“If someone were to have a stroke or a heart attack, they would have to be brought to the other side of the borough [for treatment],” Rev. Robinson added. “No one has any place to go.”
Some of the Brooklyn communities immediately surrounding both hospitals are officially underserved.
Nevertheless, plans involving cutbacks, closures and condominiums at the hospitals have persisted as a means of saving money and generating new revenues – as officials claim that beds are underutilized.
“Every time a hospital closes, the nearest emergency room seems to have an overflow,” said Derek Gates, a political coordinator with SEIU. There are plenty of patients that need the services of these hospitals.”
Patient safety is paramount to the 450 nurses at LICH, as well as the 287 working at Interfaith Medical Center.
Loreto Gasmen, a nurse at LICH for over 35 years, said that the impending closings are, indeed, “a matter of life and death.”
“I never thought this would happen,” Gasmen said. “We need a full-service hospital.”
SEIU 1199 member Denise St. Bernard, blasted Governor Cuomo for allegedly turning his back on the people of Brooklyn.
“We are entering a crisis,” St. Bernard said. “Why Brooklyn? Since Governor Cuomo has been in office, he hasn’t done anything for the people.”
Hospital advocates insist that the governor can keep both LICH and Interfaith Medical Center open while a better plan to address supposed financial shortfalls is found.
Protesters carrying signs likening Governor Cuomo to "The Grinch" chanted "hands off our hospitals," and "hospitals not condos."