February 18, 2013
Susan Smith, LaborPress Albany Bureau
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta, in testimony submitted on February 8, 2013 to the Assembly Health Committee, said SUNY Downstate employs more than 8,000 faculty, professionals and other workers.
The hospital's closure – or privatization – would deal an economic blow to Brooklyn, which is still reeling from the effects of the recession. In addition, he said, the hospital's closing would deny central Brooklyn residents – many of whom are poor – access to unique, life-saving health care services.
"Each day, thousands of Brooklyn residents depend on SUNY Downstate for medical care and specialized treatment. Many of these patients are uninsured or under-insured, and if the hospital is closed, they would have nowhere to turn," Pallotta said. He said that the job losses resulting from the hospital's closure would "devastate Brooklyn's already weak economy," noting, "Reducing employment in this economically distressed area is counterproductive and wrong."
Pallotta said SUNY Downstate – Brooklyn's fourth-largest employer – generates $1.3 billion annually for the state's economy, with more than half the hospital's workers living in the borough.
He also noted that SUNY Downstate is known nationally for its medical school and cutting-edge research. The medical school, he added, serves a diverse student population and produces more New York City physicians than any other medical education program. More than 80 percent of Downstate medical school graduates stay to practice in New York State.
The hospital's fiscal problems, he said, result from poor management and state budget cuts. In fact, he said, since 2008, state support to New York's public hospitals has been slashed by nearly 50 percent. The union said closing corporate loopholes and demanding that business pays its fair share in taxes would generate the revenue needed to keep SUNY Downstate and other public hospitals operating.
"The simple truth is that Downstate cannot carry out its critical public missions without increased state support," Pallotta said.