Plead for delay until new center opens in the fall
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Kidney Center (BKC), a dialysis center in Park Slope, has notified patients and staff that it is closing its doors next month, leaving its patients – many in wheelchairs or otherwise disabled – scrambling to find seats in other centers in Brooklyn or elsewhere.
Patients and supporters rallied on Thursday outside the clinic at 184 Sterling Place. Chanting “Save our center!” they urged BKC's owner, Fresenius Medical Care, to delay the closing until a new facility on DeGraw Street is completed this fall. The new facility has experienced construction delays.
Fresenius spokesperson Jon Stone blames the building’s landlord for the closure.
“New York Dialysis Services has a strong record of providing patients with high quality, accessible dialysis care. Unfortunately, the landlord’s recent decision to sell the property will force the closure of Brooklyn Kidney Center, likely in mid-July. We were not asked to be involved in the transaction, and the sale of the building is not tied to the services we provide. We are disappointed to lose our current location, especially given the importance the center has to not only the patients it serves, but to the overall availability of dialysis within the community.”
Fortis Property Group obtained BKC’s building as part of SUNY’s controversial closure and sale of Long Island College Hospital (LICH). Supporters say the move is just another example of a medical facility in Brooklyn suddenly closing without community input or the needs of the patients being taken into consideration.
While there are other Fresenius-owned clinics, supporters claim that Fresenius is giving priority to the 20 or so patents with private health insurance, leaving the roughly 150 Medicaid and Medicare patients to fend for themselves.
Stone says that claim is untrue. “Fresenius Medical Care is making efforts to assist all patients in transferring to new facilities,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday.
That news has yet to reach the patients. Joyce Corrica said she started dialysis at the age of 19. “I’ve been here for 42 years. And now, I was told two weeks ago that we have to evacuate because they were building a new building and it’s not finished. That’s not our responsibility. But they told us that we have to move and go to different centers. This is my health; this is my life.”
Corrica and other patients said they would have difficulty finding a new clinic, and felt their health would suffer.
“I trust the staff at BKC, I trust the people, the social workers,” she said. “I trust my dietician, I trust my doctor, Dr. Gan. I been knowing him since 1975. How could you send me someplace else to meet a new doctor who do not know anything about me? All we’re asking for is to let us stay here until the new place is finished in the fall.”
Cherie Walker, who has been receiving treatment at the center for 17 years, said, “This is not a job, this is our lifeline. Some people have been coming here for 15, 16 years. You built the Barclay up with no problem, right? Why are we still waiting after three and four years for our center to be built?”
Norma Soto said her whole life was being turned upside down. “All we ask for is an extension. Let them finish the new place; it’s just a few months.”
“We’re married to the staff here,” said Roy L. Hargrove. “It’s so unfair, it brings a grown man to tears. I feel like my wife just left me and ran off with [another man].”
He added, “They’re going to have to chain the door. Hell, no, we won’t go!”
Adrian, who uses a wheelchair, said patients were being pushed out as a result of gentrification.
“I’ve been coming here 17 years. It’s all about the money. We’re just asking for an extension,” he said, as the crowd shouted in agreement, “That’s all we ask for!”
Patients and staff applauded Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for her sponsorship of the LICH Act, which would prevent the closing of health facilities without community input and an assessment of the health needs of the area. But the act hasn’t yet passed in the Senate and so does not apply to BKC.
“This is a consequence of the LICH deal,” Simon said. “A consolidated kidney center is about to open but there have been construction delays.”
Pushing people out “will compromise care and lives,” Simon said. “Most of them are on Medicaid and Medicare, and many need assisted transportation. People are being put in the street. This center is vital – you can’t just go off dialysis for a couple of days. It seems unduly harsh to go ahead with the sale.”
She added that BKC has a “highly trained staff, and they’re being fired.”
Stone said Medical Care, New York Dialysis Services' parent company, is “working diligently to relocate our affected patients to other nearby facilities and to minimize the impact to our employees.”