By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
While Long Island College Hospital is fighting against the odds for survival, the medical situation in southwest Brooklyn is also in critical condition, according to a group of community leaders. The lack of an emergency room in the area is forcing patients to seek care at hospitals in other neighborhoods that are already overburdened, the leaders charged. "Patients wait to be treated for hours and hours,” Bill Guarinello, chairman of Community Board 11, said.
Guarinello and other members of Board 11, representing Bensonhurst, were joined by their colleagues from Community Board 10 (Bay Ridge – Dyker Heights) and elected officials at a press conference in Bay Ridge on March 8 to demand that the New York State Department of Health open an emergency room at the site off the former Victory Memorial Hospital at 699 92nd St. The hospital closed in 2010. The State University of New York Downstate Medical Center runs an http://www.downstate.edu/bayridge/ urgent care center at the Victory site. But an urgent care center, which treats non-emergencies, is not the same as an emergency room, Guarinello and the others charged.
Hospitals like Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park and Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park do a great job, but are so overrun with emergency room cases that patients wind up waiting for long periods of time to be diagnosed and treated, Guarinello said. “In the United States of America in 2013, our residents should not be going to MASH types of emergency rooms,” he said. “The emergency rooms are a disaster,” he added.
Coney Island Hospital, which was knocked out of commission by Super-storm Sandy in October, is just now getting back on its feet. During the time it was closed, the number of emergency patients at Maimonides and Victory skyrocketed, officials said. But even when Coney Island Hospital gets back to full strength, there will still a need for an ER at the former Victory site, said Joanne Seminara, chairman of Community Board 10.
“We can no longer be short-shifted. Our lives are at risk,” Seminara said. “We cannot handle emergency room services in this community when there is no emergency. Imagine what would happen if we did have a health crisis,” she said.
Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Bensonhurst) called the idea of establishing an ER at the former Victory site “a win-win” for the community and for SUNY Downstate. “They’re looking for a way to stabilize Downstate,” he said. “An ER at Victory would be a win-win for the community and for SUNY,” he said.
“It’s time for health care administrators in our state to hear what the community has to say,” said http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Alec-Brook-Krasny/ Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Bay Ridge-Coney Island). “We need emergency services for our families,” he said.
“It was wrong when we lost the emergency room at Victory,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge). “Today’s call is a call to give us back what we really deserve,” he said.
The former Victory site is not located in a flood zone, meaning that during a major storm, an ER would probably still be able to run, the lawmakers said. “It’s geographically a great spot,” Gentile said.
“Coney Island Hospital is in my district,” said Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr. (D-Coney Island-Gravesend). “Super-storm Sandy came and we were devastated. If Victory was open, it could have taken a lot of those patients. The time has come for the state to give back to us what it took away,” he said.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) said the large number of people over the age of 65 living in southwest Brooklyn is reason enough to open an ER in the area. “People wait 100 hours to be treated in an emergency room. Can you imagine waiting that long and you’re 85 years old?” he asked.
Brooklyn and Queens have the largest concentrations of senior citizens in New York State. Golden said.
With the changes taking place due to the impending closure of Long Island College Hospital, the entire borough will feel the effect, Golden predicted. “Brooklyn is Ground Zero in health care,” he said.