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Our Time Press: Hopeful Future for Interfaith Medical Center

Last week a bankruptcy court ordered that Interfaith Medical Center remain open beyond the next court date on October 15. Sharonnie Perry, chair of Interfaith Medical Center (IMC) Community Advisory Board, said the court acknowledged improvements at the hospital. “Progress is being made,” said Perry. “We are working closely with labor and staff to strengthen services at the hospital.” According to Perry, a member of the NYS Department of Health has agreed to meet with the IMC Community Advisory Board “and some other community stake holders so that she can hear directly what the community wants at the hospital and not what they feel the hospital should be.”

Perry said the community advisory board and other stake holders are working on a plan for continuing health services at Interfaith. “We know there are going to be some changes and restructuring,” said Perry, but parts of the facility are under-utilized. “We asked that OB/GYN services be returned back to Interfaith and a continuation of emergency services. We ask that they look at putting a Women’s Center in the east building to deal with cervical and breast cancer, and other women’s issues. We are asking for a state-of-the-art asthma center because Central Brooklyn is one of the communities with the highest rates of asthma in the city. We are also looking at a geriatric center for our aging population. We are also looking at putting a stroke center in Interfaith. Right now, if a stroke patient comes in, they have to be sent to another hospital. And we definitely want Behavior Management services to continue.”

“Ironically,” Perry said, “the psych/behavior management department was almost at full capacity this past weekend. And on Monday the emergency room was at full capacity.”

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries continues to seek a formal meeting with Governor Cuomo regarding the future of Interfaith. Jeffries spokesperson Stephanie Baez said the congressman has asked the governor’s staff for an extension of time in order to expand the Medicaid Waiver via the federal government for Interfaith itself. That Medicaid Waiver would be granted specifically for hospitals that are safety net hospitals, which Interfaith Medical Center is classified as one. “That is the outlet the congressman is trying to take to save the hospital,” said Baez.

District Leader and tentative-elect 35th Council member Robert Cornegy said Interfaith got “a stay of execution from October 15.” From the beginning Cornegy has been “calling for a moratorium on hospital closures in the borough until some determinations can be made regarding benefits to hospitals from the Affordable Care Act because federal monies will be available.”

Last week Judge Johnnie Lee Baines ruled that the state Department of Health’s regulations for closing hospitals were “unconstitutionally vague” and that the DOH must take the needs of the community into consideration when considering a hospital closure, something it appears not to have done regarding LICH.

Cornegy sees the ruling as having an impact on efforts to keep hospitals open throughout Brooklyn, including Interfaith. “We are looking to piggyback what was done at LICH and the court’s recommendation that closing are illegal. That’s not for LICH; that is for all state hospitals. The language in the closings is illegal,” said Cornegy. “If that stands for LICH I don’t know why it wouldn’t stand for Interfaith as well.”

“We are asking for continued support from the community to support our efforts to save the hospital,” said Perry.

A coalition of the community, labor and other stake holders host support meetings for Interfaith take place on Wednesdays at 5pm in the cafeteria.