Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, New York Assembly Member Annette Robinson and community leaders called for the preservation of health care services at the Interfaith Medical Center on Wednesday morning. Feelings are running high as a coalition of community members and elected officials, including the Rev. Herbert Daughtry; activists Sharonnie Perry and Wilmon Cousar; City Comptroller John Liu; and City Council candidates Robert Cornegy, Jelani Mashariki and Kirsten Foy met. The press conference called for city, state and federal governments to work collectively to keep Interfaith Medical Center open. Jeffries’ office said, “As a safety net hospital, the Interfaith Medical Center plays a crucial role in the delivery of health care services in the Bed-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights communities. If the Interfaith Medical Center closes, thousands of residents in Central Brooklyn will lose access to quality medical care.”
As protestors are preparing to link arms around the hospital this Thursday, August 22 at 4.30pm, Jeffries noted that Interfaith Medical Center serves the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights communities in central Brooklyn. After years of financially struggling to maintain operational costs, Interfaith Medical Center declared bankruptcy in December 2012, which required the preparation of a closure plan. This closure plans remains pending until Aug. 26, when officials will meet for a bankruptcy hearing. According to Jeffries’ office, there is a meeting set to take place in early September between Jeffries and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Jeffries said, “Health care institutions throughout New York City are under intense assault, and Brooklyn has now become ground zero for the conflict. The people of central Brooklyn suffer disproportionately higher rates of HIV infection, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, childhood obesity and infant mortality.”
Protestors say that in addition to providing many other critical health care services, Interfaith Medical Center is the only hospital in central Brooklyn that provides emergency services, pediatric and surgical care. It is also the largest provider of psychiatric care in the borough.
Jeffries proclaimed, “Bedford-Stuyvesant needs more medical care, not less, and we will not tolerate the closure of Interfaith Medical Center in our community. Over the last several weeks, we have had several productive conversations with state administration officials, and we look forward to meeting personally with Gov. Andrew Cuomo in early September to discuss ways to keep our hospital open.”
State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery said, “Brooklyn is in a deepening health care crisis. Interfaith Medical Center has been a major provider of primary, emergency and psychiatric care in northern and central Brooklyn for decades, and its closure would be an incredible and dangerous hardship. We must do all we can for IMC.”
“As a community, we continue to stand united in the face of adversity to do everything in our power to prevent the closing of Interfaith Medical Center—this vital and important community medical facility,” said Robinson. “I know well what devastation will befall my community if this hospital is forced to close its doors. We gather again as elected officials, unions, hospital staff and community leaders to send a loud and clear message to the governor of this state: Interfaith must remain open!”
Assembly Member Walter Mosley added, “Interfaith Medical Center serves some of the most densely populated African-American neighborhoods in the nation, and its closure would threaten the stability and livelihood of a community already struggling with the highest rates of chronic illness, poverty and unemployment in the city. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in government, members of Interfaith advisory board, the Department of Health and the governor in our effort to preserve and improve health care in central Brooklyn.”
Assembly Member Karim Camara said, “Brooklyn communities cannot afford for another hospital to close its doors—period! With its growing population and increasing health care needs, the borough should be looking to expand health care options for its residents instead of continuously allowing them to close in the wake of funding shortages. I am proud to stand with my colleagues today from the federal, state and city levels to pledge concerted action to save our institutions.”
Keeping the momentum going, in addition to the dozens of rallies and meetings—and even an overnight vigil—planned, there is a rally scheduled to take place on Aug. 29 to encourage Cuomo to approve the funding of Interfaith Medical Center.
Interfaith is located at 1545 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn, and, according to its website, it provides medical care for more than 250,000 people from every racial demographic in central Brooklyn every year. Interfaith Medical Center has been serving the community since Jewish Medical Center merged with St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in 1982.
Observers determine that if Interfaith does not get the funding it needs, it will close just as St. Vincent’s in Manhattan and St. John’s in Queens did. This closing will cause a rush of patients from this large hospital to migrate to smaller, less equipped ones across New York. It will also leave the doctors, nurses and other staff members out in the cold.
The rally will take place on Aug. 29 at 4 p.m. at the site of St. Vincent’s Medical Center, located at Seventh and Greenwich avenues in Manhattan. From there, protesters will walk together to 14th Street, where there will be several presentations in support of renewing funding for Interfaith Medical Center.