Bill de Blasio at a rally to save Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith Medical Center on July 24, 2013. (Courtesy of Flickr)
For many New Yorkers, the trip to treat a broken appendage or receive vaccination shots is growing longer. Since 2000, nineteen hospitals across the city have closed due to financial pressures—a number that could have even been higher had a judge not recently ordered Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Brooklyn to resume services.
Nurses gathered outside LICH in early July to deliver a nearly 7,000-signature petition to SUNY Downstate Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s New York City office demanding she stop the process of closing the hospital. Journalist Sarah Jaffe reported that after a SUNY representative refused to comment on the ongoing situation, the crowd turned to civil disobedience and blocked the doors to the building and refused to move until police took them away in cuffs.
Though those protesters were successful in fighting for the return of emergency services, the twentieth closure may occur soon if plans to shut down Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn go through.
Community members held an all-night vigil Sunday to protest the planned closure.
Reverend Herbert Daughtry, 82, said, “The absence of this hospital means that people will have to go distances for medical attention.”
Thus far, Governor Andrew Cuomo has not expressed sympathy for hospital staffs and residents losing easily accessible medical care, and has said he is unwilling to bail out failing hospitals.
“If you look closely and follow the proper guidelines, money is available for safety-net hospitals,” District Leader for the 56th Assembly district Robert Cornegy said.
“Safety net hospitals” is how advocates describe facilities in low-income areas that provide much needed services. They say the government has a moral obligation to care for the sick and the poor.
“What the government is saying to us, though, is that there are beds available within the borough, so it’s okay to close a hospital,” Cornegy said. “Because make it with beds in Coney Island and beds in other places, but it doesn’t account for the emergency response time necessary to save a life.”
For many residents, the walk from their apartment to the nearest hospital has increased from a few blocks to, in some cases, a few miles. Advocates say that change is a matter of life and death, especially for the city’s poor residents.
Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Stephen Autry told an ABC affiliate that the nearest hospital to his home is in Woodhull on Flushing Avenue, and that is several miles away.