Hospital workers rally to save jobs

One of the many demonstrators protesting outside of SUNY Downstate University Hospital.
Photo by Lem Peterkin

Moving through the corridor of busy Clarkson Avenue in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, passers-by become sandwiched between two towering edifices, Kings County Hospital and SUNY Downstate University Hospital of Brooklyn. To the onlooker, a strong image of a viable community where healthcare is paramount is projected. But, looks can be deceptive. Workers from SUNY Downstate University Hospital of Brooklyn held a demonstration on Friday, Sept. 12 to protest the scheduled dismissal of over 200 employees this month.

Don Morgenstern, SUNY Downstate Medical center AFL-CIO delegate, was one of the many unions represented at the demonstration. He said that,” University hospital has a plan to cut the size of the hospital in half. Over the course of one year, 400 employees were given pink slips, some with only 30 days notice. One hundred employees are to be laid off this month and most of them are low level staff. The hospital is now 100 nurses short. Care in the critical care unit has become dangerous care. The Emergency Room is probably one of the busiest ERs in the city and staff there is not enough.” This hospital serves mostly the poor, minorities, immigrants and seniors. Downstate Hospital now has less nurses and staff than they should. He highlighted that “in June of 2013, the hospital made profits in excess of one million dollars and there is no reason for the layoffs since over the months the hospital continued to be profitable. Nurses have caseloads of 10 to 12 patients and the Neo-natal care unit has one nurse serving four babies instead of a one to one ratio.”

Rabbi Eli Cohen’s message to the demonstrators was that the Jewish community is aware that services at this hospital are needed. “The decision to lay off employees is hurting families and enough is enough. Give better care to the people of Brooklyn,” he said, as he called on Governor Cuomo to intervene and fund the hospital.

Each speaker discussed the impact the layoff will have on family life and the community. Victor Jordan, member of community Board 17, said that “the Board has been reaching out to the community to raise their consciousness of the importance of Downstate, not only in terms of service, but also employment, since Downstate provides jobs for small businesses in the community.”

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