Here we go again.
The State is walking back on its agreement to fund Interfaith Hospital the $3.5 million it promised in December, and elected officials and hospital advocates are outraged.
City, state and federal elected officials representing Bedford-Stuyvesant, along with a crowd of about 50 hospital union members gathered outside of Interfaith Sunday afternoon chanting, “Show us the money! Show us the money!” in protest of what they are calling a breach of agreement.
But who breached which agreement first?
In December, when the hospital was in bankruptcy court, the judge ordered that some outpatient clinics– feeder clinics that exist around and refer patients to Interfaith– be transferred to Kingsboro Psychiatric Center while in-patient services were negotiated.
When the state came up with last-minute funding for the hospital to the tune of $3.5 million, it was enough to fully operate the hospital without rushing the transfer of any clinics, said said Eliza Carboni, associate director of the New York State Nurses Association.
“It would have dropped the fences too low to break off those feeders,” said Carboni. “It’s kind of cutting the leg of the hospital and then expecting to maintain census.”
The hospital’s board voted to hold onto the clinics while they waited to see what would happen next. But the state disagreed: On Thursday, it gave the hospital seven days to transfer the clinics, or it would not give the $3.5 million it promised.
At Saturday’s rally, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-8) argued that the clinics were vital to the hospital’s survival, and therefore, the board was simply responding to the will of the community and the stakeholders. Jeffries went on to charge that legally, the state was talking “out of both sides of its mouth.”
“They’ve now gone back on their promise,” said Jeffries. “The agreement represents a material adverse change in condition. If the shutdown wasn’t imminent, then the transfer and the closure should not take place. So [the state’s] arguments in our view do not hold legitimacy from a legal standpoint.”
Jeffries was joined by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblyman Walter Mosley, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Councilmembers Robert Cornegy, Laurie Cumbo and Annette Robinson.
“Interfaith is the second-largest hospital in Brooklyn servicing psych patients,” said Ari Moma, chairman of NYSNA and a psych nurse at Interfaith for 18 years. “It would be a tragedy to healthcare if you close Interfaith. What’s going to happen to all of my patients? We see about 1700 every year. Where will they go?”
Federal legislators are also discussing in good faith the possibility of extending the medical center an additional $4 million to help sustain it. That would bring Interfaith’s total funding to $7.5 million with the state’s full support. But that federal funding is still under negotiation.
“So what I’m asking now from the 50-member body of City Council and the Speaker and the mayor’s office is to put a pool of money together, a bridge loan, while we wait for the $7 million,” said Cornegy. “It would be a travesty if the hospital went under while we’re waiting for that money. So I want to ask the mayor to lend us this money to keep us afloat while we wait.”
Cornegy said both the City Council and the mayor’s office have committed to meeting with him this week.
In the meantime, Jeffries and his political colleagues are calling on the state to go ahead and release the funds it promised.
“Give us the time at the federal government level to work through the state’s application to set the institution on a sustainable course,” said Jeffries. “Do not pull the plug on this hospital. Because if you do that, we’re prepared to pull the plug on you.”