The fight to save Interfaith Medical Center took a dramatic turn this week when the hospital’s board and trustees submitted a closure plan. On Monday, notices went out stating that as of August 12, EMS will no longer take patients to Interfaith. Instead, ambulances will be diverted to other hospitals. Walk-ins will be received, but elective surgeries will end Aug. 19. On Sept. 11 the emergency department will close and by Sept. 12 all patients will be transferred from the hospital. One month later outpatient services will discontinue and by Nov. 11 all detox and rehab will end.
Sharonnie Perry, chair of the Interfaith Community Advisory Board, said, “Everything is not final yet.”
“A closing plan was submitted, but it doesn’t admit defeat,” District Leader Robert Cornegy said, noting that “The state is willing to give $15 million for the closing plan, but not one dime toward restructuring.”
On Monday there was a legislative/clergy meeting at Interfaith, reported Ms. Perry. In attendance were mayoral candidate and former comptroller Bill Thompson, State Senator Eric Adams, Assembly members Karim Camara, Annette Robinson, and Walter Mosley, Cornegy, Renee Collymore and Jesse Hamilton, Council member Letitia James, and representatives for State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Borough President Markowitz, Congressman Hakim Jeffries, and Joe Lentol, chair of the Brooklyn Delegation for the state. Also attending the meeting were Chair of the Clergy committee Rev. Herbert Daughtry, and vice chairs Rev. Waterman of Antioch Baptist Church and Rev. Brown of Stuyvesant Heights Disciples of Christ as well as Rev. Taharka Robinson who will team with Cornegy to plan community actions on behalf of the hospital. At that meeting it was decided to send another letter to Gov. Cuomo as well as letters to U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand inviting them to come to Interfaith to meet with elected officials, clergy, labor and the community to try to hash out a plan to save the hospital.On Tuesday all hospitals were given a 90-day notice stating that as of October 18 the hospital will close. Also on Tuesday a labor delegation from 1199 and the Nurses Association travelled to Albany to meet with the state Department of Health in the hopes of developing a restructuring plan that could persuade the DOH to reconsider closing the hospital. In addition, Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network have been working with labor, Community Board #3, community based organizations and the advisory board. There will be ongoing strategy meetings conducted by the Interfaith Community Advisory Board.
“Some of us are of a firm belief that this is going to turn around,” said Perry.
Comparing the impending closure of LICH to Interfaith, Perry said that there are 4 other hospitals in LICH’s catchment area: Brooklyn to the north and NY Methodist, Maimonides, and Lutheran to the south. But in Interfaith’s catchment area, Woodhull is 15 minutes away… if there is no traffic. Wyckoff and Brookdale are each 25-20 minutes away and Kings County and Downstate are 30 minutes away.
“In the case of somebody having a heart attack or stroke every second counts,” said Perry. She said other area hospitals are already complaining about the increase in their emergency room traffic, citing a minimum 15-hour ER wait at Brooklyn Medical Center during the recent heat wave. “We are hopeful and believe that the governor is going to make a decision to keep Interfaith open,” said Perry, “because closing it would be a geographic hardship for families.”
The community has not stopped fighting for the vital hospital.
Cornegy outlined a three-prong attack to save the hospital: pressure from the Brooklyn delegation of elected officials on the governor; community actions including marches, rallies, and civil disobedience, if necessary; and possible legal remedies in the form of a civil rights action because to the disparities in health care in central Brooklyn. “We are optimistic that we will be heard,” said Cornegy.