De Blasio: Another win in court for Brooklyn
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which was slated to begin shutting down on Monday, has received a reprieve until at least September 11, following a legal action by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio last week in Federal Bankruptcy Court.
“Today was supposed to be the beginning of the end for Interfaith, but I’m proud to say that’s not happening today. Once again, we’ve won a major victory in court,” said de Blasio, backed by Interfaith staff and patients and Council Member Letitia James at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
De Blasio’s legal actions have played a major role in keeping another threatened Brooklyn hospital, Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill, open as well. (See related story.)
The state Department of Health (DOH) admitted in a letter on August 23 to Hon. Carla E. Craig, Chief Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District, that they had had rushed ahead with approving Interfaith’s closure plan and had disregarded the 90-day review period required under law.
On Monday, DOH asked the court for a postponement, acknowledging the “closure plan does not yet meet the Department’s requirements … to assure a carefully planned closure.”
“Now we have a chance for a long term solution,” de Blasio said, adding that Interfaith has put together a restructuring plan. “Governor Cuomo has applied for a federal waiver which would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. The tools are there.” He said a solution may involve redistributing facilities such as emergency rooms and key units according to community needs, and boosted his plan for a Brooklyn Health Authority with the power to ensure neighborhood-level medical care, saying it would be a “citywide model.”
Responding to criticism that his plan is too ambitious to be approved by Albany, de Blasio said, “That’s an amazingly insincere criticism. To say it’s just too difficult to have a different vision for the city, so let’s just close hospitals and let rampant inequalities grow, I don’t accept that.”
For Interfaith and LICH, a “serious conversation can now begin,” he said. “This opens the door to more success saving other hospitals.”
Council Member James said the delay bought Interfaith “more time to bring all the stakeholders to the table.” Calling Interfaith “critically important,” she said, “Any time we get is a victory, given the health disparities in Brooklyn and especially Central Brooklyn.”
James said that Interfaith serves a large population of persons suffering from mental health problems, singling out its MICA (Mentally Ill Chemically Addicted) unit, the Pediatric unit, the HIV AIDS clinic and dental clinics, “all desperately needed in a community slightly above poverty level.”
Closing Interfaith would “further the feminization of poverty in Brooklyn,” she added, noting that “most people who work there are people of color with children.”
Reports issued recently by de Blasio show the loss of Interfaith would push more than 175,000 Brooklynites farther from their nearest emergency room, and would leave nearly 70,000 people who use Interfaith’s out-patient psychiatric facilities without any services in their own community.
De Blasio applauded the efforts of the New York State Nurses Association, 1199 SEIU, the Interfaith Community Advisory Board and his team of “legal heroes” headed by attorney Ed Neiger from the firm ASK, LLP, who brought the motion into federal Bankruptcy Court.