The future of Interfaith Medical Center is at stake.
And on Thursday, February 7, from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., at J.H.S. 35 Stephen Decatur, located at 272 McDonough Street, community leaders, members of the nurse's union and other interested parties will hold an emergency town hall meeting to determine the outlook of the hospital's future services.
Interfaith's problems first came to light about a year ago, when the Bed-Stuy Hospital announced it was running out of cash and unable to meet its payroll.
By late fall, the financially strapped hospital that serves a largely African-American population in Central Brooklyn said it had no choice but to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
So a Brooklyn work group of the governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team, which was created to find savings in the hospital and health industry, recommended that Interfaith merge with Brooklyn Hospital, judged to be the most financially fit to absorb the ailing Interfaith and its financial debts.
Now, a group of hospital advocates, including Interfaith staff, administration, union members and neighbors from Central Brooklyn will come together on Thursday for a Town Hall to discuss what exactly the merger will mean for the community, given the hospital's precarious financial situation.
Community leaders warn that inaction by local residents could result in a merger that ultimately leads to the end of certain essential medical services-- services that qualify it as a community-based hospital.
"It won't be a closure as we know it, but an erosion of the services that are the heart of servicing the community," said Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. District Leader (56th A.D.).
"It's already suggested in Brooklyn Hospital's memorandum of understanding that if they merge, Brooklyn Hospital will move the more elite services to its facility and begin to put all of the ancilliary, undesirable services, such as those suffering from substance abuse, into Interfaith.
"Already, they've moved pediatrics and obstetrics out, and those services are the heart of a community hospital. That takes Interfaith out of the realm of servicing Central Brooklyn as a community-based, family hospital. And then what's next?"
Juan Martinez, head of Intergovernmental Affairs at Interfaith, added, "The message has to be that, as we move forward in this partnership, we need to make sure Interfaith continues being a full-service hospital. And the only way to ensure that happens is through the continued involvement of the community.
"So this is about setting an agenda for the things we would like to see and for what healthcare is going to look like in this community moving forward."
Just this past weekend, Cornegy, along with representatives of Long Island College Hospital -- which also faces closure by SUNY Downstate -- and Interfaith Hospital rallied outside of Governor Cuomo's midtown Manhattan office, to protest what they fear may result in either closure of essential services or privatization.
The rally also was attended by members of the African-American Clergy and Elected Officials Organization, the New York State Nurses Association, The Bed-Stuy Works Alliance, N.A.A.C.P., the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR-SEIU), Bridge Street Development Corporation, and the Save Our Safety Net Campaign.
"So this is a statewide issue, but it's disproportionately affecting Brooklyn," said Cornegy. "People in the neighborhood are all excited about the new lounges and new lightlife here. But we've got to focus on the need for good quality health. Because once the hospital is closed, you don't get it back."