By Andy Katz
Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As Downtown Brooklyn continues to experience tremendous growth and transformation, the leadership of The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC) hosted a “Building Brooklyn’s Future” breakfast briefing with local elected officials to discuss the future of the hospital. The hospital’s leaders outlined a master plan, which will enable it to continue its over 170-year history of providing Brooklyn families with quality healthcare in their neighborhood.
“This is a critical time for The Brooklyn Hospital Center,” CEO Gary Terrinoni explained to a panel that included New York state Assemblymembers Joseph Lentol, Walter T. Mosley and Jo Anne Simon, as well as New York City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and noted screenwriter David Henry Hwang, who had been a patient at TBHC.
The hospital is seeking funds to modernize its emergency department and expand outpatient health centers to meet the demands of a growing population. The hospital is the sole and essential safety-net provider of inpatient and outpatient health care for approximately 1 million residents living in Downtown Brooklyn and the surrounding neighborhoods. Many of these communities are significantly affected by poverty and poor health status.
The delivery of health care in New York state and across the country is changing, with more care delivered in outpatient, community-based settings. To address this changing paradigm, in 2016, New York state authorized $165 million to be spent on the transformation of health care facilities across New York state, through the Health Care Facility Transformation Program to support key capital projects.
In September, TBHC submitted a request for a $36 million grant from the program to support its modernization plans. “To continue our mission, we are requesting the critical funding needed to serve Brooklyn’s families,” said Terrinoni.
The grant request could not be more timely, as the New York State Department of Health is faced with the daunting challenge of how to help struggling Brooklyn hospitals. Separately, the state authorized $700 million to be spent on the transformation of health care facilities in Brooklyn focused on four hospitals — Brookdale, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Wyckoff Heights.
Northwell Ventures, which is affiliated with Northwell Health, recently released a report that includes a rescue plan for the four distressed community hospitals to merge into one regional health system. It shows that the four hospitals will require $310 million in operating subsidies from the state in Fiscal Year 2017, and will have combined losses of $405 million by Fiscal Year 2021.
Terrinoni strongly advocated for TBHC to receive support from the state and not be ignored, “The Brooklyn Hospital Center has shown financial stewardship as an independent community hospital, while other Brooklyn providers cannot survive without enormous state subsidies. Over the last several years, TBHC has received no capital awards while other Brooklyn hospitals have received capital awards over $100 million, and yet still require hundreds more in the coming years to cover operating losses.”
He noted that TBHC stands out as one of the few Brooklyn hospitals to succeed in sustaining a positive operating performance over the past decade. The hospital has had a slight operating margin, but not enough to invest in critical capital projects.
“We are caught between a rock and a hard place,” explained Terrinoni. “We don’t have the ability to reinvest, nor have we met the state’s criteria as a financially distressed hospital for funds that have benefited other Brooklyn hospitals. The hospital and our patients have been overlooked.”
TBHC officials argued it is also deserving of funding based on its local, high-quality care. TBHC touted several recognitions that it recently received. “TBHC is on the move,” Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning, Marketing & Communication Joan Carney-Clark stated. “We have been recognized as a U.S. News & World Report Best Hospital for heart failure, as well as awards from the American Heart Association for stroke and heart failure care, and designation as a breast imaging center of excellence.”
The breakfast briefing ended with a tour of the emergency department, but not before local resident and screenwriter David Henry Hwang recounted a close call he had last November.
“I probably would not be here today if TBHC, its nurses and doctors weren’t close by and provided me life-saving care,” revealed Hwang. He was on his way home one night from a grocery store run when he felt a sharp pain on the back of his neck. He quickly realized that he had been stabbed and was bleeding. He stumbled to the emergency department where doctors and nurses discovered that one of the arteries in his neck had been severed.
“I don’t want anyone to be attacked like I was, but it is good to know that TBHC is there when we need it,” said Hwang.
New York state is expected to make a decision soon about its transformation grants, with awards announced in early 2017. “Brooklyn residents, our patients and staff need to call their local city and state elected officials asking them to support TBHC’s grant request,” urged Terrinoni. “The time is now and could not be more critical.”