Our community is feeling the pain

To The Editor:

Vital health care services and hundreds of jobs have been lost at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and our community is feeling the pain.

So far, more than 300 jobs have been eliminated at Downstate, and thousands more layoffs may occur if the hospital continues its so-called “restructuring plan”—designed to save money at the expense of health care and the devastating economic impact it continues to have on Central Brooklyn.

Our community’s depressed economy—we have one of the highest unemployment rates in New York—has been further weakened by the job losses. Businesses are closing and those who have lost their jobs are now in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

Profiteers, with the tacit support of the governor, are trying to privatize Downstate, Brooklyn’s only state-run public hospital. That cannot happen! Most of the 400,000 patients Downstate serves each year have little or no insurance; as a public hospital, Downstate provides care for patients who can’t afford to pay for health care. These patients will be denied access to health care if Downstate is privatized.

Safety-net services such as Downstate’s kidney transplant and Alzheimer’s disease centers, and its neonatal care unit which serves all of Central Brooklyn, have been downsized. Downstate’s dental clinic has been closed. Many more safety-net services may be reduced or eliminated.

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) extending insurance to many more people in our community, Downstate, and the University Hospital of Brooklyn in particular, can be sustained as a full-service hospital serving Central Brooklyn and the surrounding locales. The ACA will provide stronger hospital revenue streams and improved access and higher quality of care.

A physician supported plan has been formulated that meets the needs of all stakeholders in Brooklyn. If implemented, this plan will provide comprehensive medical care for all the residents of Brooklyn. Downstate would then serve as the centerpiece of both medical care and the economic rebirth of the borough.

Our community depends on Downstate for life-saving health care services and the economic boost it provides. Closing or privatizing Downstate would be a disastrous blow to Central Brooklyn and the hundreds of thousands of Brooklynites who depend on the hospital in so many ways.

We have met with our state legislators and we have not been successful in stopping the layoffs. Gov. Cuomo has refused to meet with us and we are appealing to him to stop the layoffs and the elimination and/or privatization of vital health care services. We, the faith leaders of the SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor & Community Leaders, believe it’s important to keep Downstate a full-service, state-operated public hospital!

Bishop Orlando Findlayter,

Pastor at New Hope Christian Fellowship,

4615 Church Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11203 (646) 339-8344

(The writer is the leader of the SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders, and chairman of Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH))

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