Unions: ‘We dodged a bullet’
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A financial lifeline was thrown to ailing Interfaith Medical Center in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Monday, when the court approved $7.5 million in funds that will keep the Bedford-Stuyvesant hospital in full operation through mid-February.
Interfaith, on the brink of closing, will receive immediate access to $3.5 million, promised previously but withheld by the state, along with another $4 million in Vital Access Provider (VAP) funds.
According to NYSNA and 1199, “another $10 million is on the table if parties can agree to terms” by February 10.
“Today was a crucial day in the fight to save Brooklyn healthcare. We dodged a bullet that could have meant the end of Interfaith and now we’re looking forward to working on a long-term, sustainable, and viable solution to critical patient-care services,” the unions said.
“We are relieved the state will save Interfaith through February 14 and, in the meantime, promises to look for alternative funding,” Diane Porter, President of the IM Foundation, said in a statement on Tuesday. “As the most under served area in the city in terms of healthcare, we look forward to working with the state to find solutions that work for the hospital and the community.” The IM Foundation supports the mission of Interfaith and advocates for local healthcare.
The state had previously demanded that the ailing hospital turn over its clinics to Kingsborough Jewish Medical Center before the releasing the promised funding.
Also on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both in Albany, presented a united front in their plea to the federal government to act immediately on New York State’s $10 billion Medicaid Waiver request, of which $1 billion would go towards transforming teetering Brooklyn hospitals.
“We’ve been living hand to mouth, and in the court system,” de Blasio said.
In his Executive Budget address last week, Governor Cuomo blamed the federal government’s foot-dragging for exacerbating Brooklyn’s hospital crisis.
In U.S. Bankruptcy Court on January 22, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Carla E. Craig, following a weekend filled with protests over the never-delivered $3.5 million, ordered Interfaith’s stakeholders and creditors back to the table for mediation.
Chaos had erupted on January 17 when Interfaith’s CEO Patrick Sullivan, citing lack of funds, ordered ambulances diverted from Interfaith’s emergency room. Protesters flocked to the hospital, and Sullivan left the premises under guard. Control of Interfaith was assumed by Chief Medical Officer Pradeep Chandra, and ambulances began to roll again that night.
The statements from the IM Foundation and the unions are below.
Statement from Diane Porter, President of the IM Foundation:
We are relieved the state will save Interfaith through February 14 and, in the meantime, promises to look for alternative funding. On behalf of the IM Foundation, I would like to thank the elected officials, community advocates, unions, nurses, doctors and patients for their devoted service in keeping this vital hospital open and serving Brooklyn. As the most under severed area in the city in terms of healthcare, we look forward to working with the state to find solutions that work for the hospital and the community.
Joint statement from 1199SEIU Vice President Bruce Richards and NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo, RN, on Interfaith Medical Center:
Today was a crucial day in the fight to save Brooklyn healthcare. We dodged a bullet that could have meant the end of Interfaith and now we’re looking forward to working on a long-term, sustainable, and viable solution to critical patient-care services.
The fight is not over. We are committed to maintaining critical patient care services at Interfaith Medical Center – the community not only needs these services, they need expanded access to care. We are ready to work with anyone who is equally committed meeting the healthcare of the community.
Bedford-Stuyvesant is a federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Area and community needs assessments have shown that Central Brooklyn as a whole needs more healthcare services.
The community must have a say in how those services are delivered and must be able to hold providers accountable for delivering care in accordance with community needs.
Market-driven forces have created chaos for Brooklyn patients. Ensuring that every patient has access to quality, affordable care and that communities have a voice in decisions that impact that care is our top priority.
For too long, profits have been prioritized over the needs of Brooklyn patients. Whether we close a hospital to sell off the real estate or because the patients are too poor to be profitable, the result is the same – people die.
Patients, nurses, caregivers, and community and elected leaders remain united to save Interfaith Medical Center, Long Island College Hospital, and every other vital Brooklyn facility that patients depend on for care.
Updated Jan. 28 with statement from the IM Foundation