Thursday, February 13, 2014

Three Brooklyn Hospitals Face Down-sizing, Despite Billions in State and City Resources

No Political Commitment to Save Hospitals

Brookdale Hospital, Interfaith Medical Center, and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center will now have to down-size in order to survive, aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today. No mention was made if Long Island College Hospital, a fourth Brooklyn hospital that has been targeted for closure by Gov. Cuomo, would survive the chopping block.

As part of a controversial Medicaid waiver, New York state must reduce inpatient hospital beds across the board in accordance with the wishes of Stephen Berger, a New York investment banker and member of a working group of Gov. Cuomo's Medicaid Redesign Team. Since 2006, Mr. Berger has overseen the closure or down-sizing of 11 hospitals in New York City alone.

Gov. Cuomo wants to use some of the money from the Medicaid waiver to down-size hospitals into urgent care centers, emergency units, and specialized treatment facilities. “We will be able to fund the structural and rebuilding needed to transform hospitals so they can be profitable and thrive and remain open,” one aide to Gov. Cuomo said.

Because the Medicaid waiver was negotiated in secret, it is not known if any of the down-sized facilities in Brooklyn will "transform" into spin-offs as for-profit healthcare corporations.

No response, yet, from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who campaigned outside the former St. Vincent's Hospital with a promise to stop hospital closings.

Billion in Surplus State and City Budgets

Gov. Cuomo says that New York state has no money to save our hospitals, yet he is spending "surplus" state tax money that was "made" by closing entire hospitals. From this "pot of gold," the governor is offering tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations, so much so that the Moral Monday movement is now coming to Albany, to fight the irresponsible way in which Gov. Cuomo has politicized state tax dollars. Many observers note that Gov. Cuomo is diverting "surplus" money from healthcare cuts to cozy up to corporate supporters in order to increase his margin of victory in his re-election bid later this year as a way to launch a campaign for the 2016 presidential race.

Mayor de Blasio has also attracted some scrutiny in how he's using tax money. The new mayor enjoys a $3 billion budget surplus, and the city stands to make an additional $1 billion from the sale of new air rights around Grand Central Terminal as part of the mayor's plan to rezone the east side of Midtown Manhattan. But so far, Mayor de Blasio has not proposed to use any of these resources to save two hospitals on the verge of closure, Long Island College Hospital or Interfaith Medical Center, both in Brooklyn.

As each of Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio plan their next budgets, now is the time to hold them to account to save our community hospitals.

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