Downstate Medical Center may lay off over a thousand workers

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Fears mount they may move central operation from black to white neighborhood

By Amelia Rawlins

As the SUNY Downstate Medical Center starts issuing pink slips to workers as part of their “restructuring”, Borough President Marty Markowitz and a bevy of the borough’s elected officials wrote Gov. Cuomo urging him to save critical services and medical training at both Downstate and its affiliate Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill.
Meanwhile, rumors abound that Downstate is considering moving their central base of operation from its current East Flatbush location, which is largely a community of color, to LICH, which is heavily white and upper income.
The SUNY Downstate Medical Center, located across the street from Kings County Hospital, is Brooklyn’s fourth-largest employer, providing jobs for nearly 8,000 employees, most of which are residents of Brooklyn, so a deficit would deeply affect not only the borough, but the population it has serviced for decades.
LICH recently laid off 150 workers and Downstate sent out 400 pink slips amid fears that over 1,000 workers will be laid off next year in an area of Brooklyn where unemployment is thought to be at least double the current 11 percent borough-wide.
“Downstate’s services are vital to Brooklyn residents. The population it serves—largely Medicaid recipients and underserved neighborhoods of color—absolutely cannot afford to lose Downstate’s services. Impeding Downstate’s ability to serve Brooklyn communities would have a devastating impact on the borough in many ways,” wrote the elected officials.
SUNY Downstate spokesperson Ronald Najman said like most hospitals, and especially hospitals in Brooklyn, Downstate’s University Hospital has been subject to recent financial stress, owing to declining reimbursement from public and private payers.
According to Najman, currently Downstate is working to align revenue and expenditures in order to maintain clinical services and ensure that health care education is preserved for the people of Brooklyn.
“High-quality patient care and medical education have always been and will remain our top priority,” he said. “While this phase of workforce restructuring includes both management and nonmanagement job titles, all actions align with union contracts. We cannot comment on numbers at this time as it is an ongoing process.”