New Yorkers do not need to look to New Orleans to see the shame of a nation. They can see the shame of the state right here in central Brooklyn. The state has decided to close Saint Mary’s Hospital. In zip codes that rank lowest or highest, whichever indicates the most negative condition of poverty or health, they’re closing a major health care facility.
In Brooklyn, the largest borough in the premier city of the state, there is a stunning indifference and inevitability to the death and suffering this closing will cause. “Allowing St. Mary’s to close with absolutely no plan in place to provide vital services to the community, is a mind-boggling failure on the state’s part,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “When poor people get sick or even die because they can’t see a doctor, we don’t call it neglect or genocide, but it is immoral to shutter another health care facility in central Brooklyn.”
Pick the disease and central Brooklyn can claim a higher percentage than most other areas in the country. The New York City Department of Health defines central Brooklyn as Ground Zero for NYC’s HIV epidemic of African-Americans, women, and children. Brooklyn has the third largest AIDS population in the US following Manhattan and Los Angeles Brooklyn has more people who have been diagnosed with AIDS (32,937) than forty-five states, and more children (705) than forty-seven. Four times as many people die of diabetes in the largely black area of central Brooklyn as on the predominantly white Upper East Side of Manhattan. If you want markers for the kind of stress people are under, look at the single-dose self-medication lined up on the shelves behind the register of the neighborhood corner stores.
We asked Pastor James Reddick who’s been a chaplin at St. Mary’s for 13, years what the local Assemblyman Thomas Boyland had done. Previously in a meeting we attended, he had been very upbeat about the situation, talking importantly about meetings with the governor and Speaker. “To be very frank, blunt and to the point, nothing,” said the chaplin. “Nothing was done. Nothing. With all of the talk, with all of the fist-raising, with all of the hullabaloo, nothing was done. All of the meetings, all of the rallies they attended, they did nothing. It is shocking to know that a whole community would be sold out for the dollar”.It is unbelievable, continued the chaplin, “that people’s lives, not only patients but employees who have been there 30-40 years, could be just turned out.”
Pastor Reddick feels it isn’t that the hospital could not be saved. He places the blame on lust for the dollar. “As you know, real estate in New York is super prime, so you can imagine how much money is involved, in a square city block.As far as others are concerned, “The real estate itself is worth much more than the lives of the people in the community and the employees.
This can be done because the area is poor and predominantly black. If anybody needs a hospital, it would be people in that area. I have insurance and I can go anywhere. But these folks depend on subsidized care. The hospital is not a moneymaker. It’s a service. These other hospitals can’t absorb it.
We’ve contacted Assemblyman Boyland’s office, but the person answering said they have not issued a statement on the closing. We’ve called the assemblyman several times about St. Mary’s but he has never returned a phone call. Reddick says the actual closing date has been extended from October 3rd to the 14th. People in central Brooklyn will be sicker, suffer more and die younger because of this action. And evidently, the only thing people in power can do is stand around and wring their hands. If only Sonny Carson was here. Sonny would know what to do. DG