Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio rallied with nurses and healthcare workers outside the struggling Long Island College Hospital Sunday, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene to save the Cobble Hill facility and another Brooklyn hospital.
"There are powerful forces working to shutter these hospitals. Some want to make money, others are out to save money " said de Blasio in a statement at the rally.
In a letter sent to Cuomo Sunday morning, de Blasio said LICH and Bedford-Stuyvesant's Interfaith Medical Center "face closure not because of an overarching imperative in delivering patient healthcare, but because of bottom lines and profit margins."
SUNY Downstate Medical Center has been moving toward closing LICH since February, clearing out intensive care units and refusing to take in new patients in the maternity and surgical wards.
In April, SUNY announced it would not seek to close the hospital. Last month a state judge ordered LICH to maintain enough staff to function, but the hospital is still diverting ambulances away from its emergency room, de Blasio said.
"Blocked by legal action, SUNY Downstate appears to be executing a deliberate plan to starve the Cobble Hill hospital out-of-business," de Blasio said in the letter.
Interfaith also faces closure after filing for bankruptcy in December. Though the facility was set to merge with Brooklyn Hospital Center, de Blasio wrote in the letter that talks are in jeopardy because the state has not provided funding for the merger.
"There is a growing healthcare crisis in Brooklyn. If either LICH or Interfaith closes, care for hundreds of thousands of Brooklyn patients will be at risk," said LICH nurse Maribel Agosto at the rally.
In his letter, de Blasio asked Cuomo to reject any plans that included LICH's closure.
He also asked for full funding for the merger of Interfaith and Brooklyn Hospital Center.
"People's lives are at stake. Community health is at stake. Hundreds of jobs are at stake," said Estela Vasquez, the executive vice president of SEIU 1199, a union representing healthcare workers on the East Coast.
In his plea to Cuomo, de Blasio cited the loss of the West Village's St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center, which closed in 2010 after suffering financial troubles and being sold to the Rudin real estate family.
Investigators with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office reportedly looked into the conditions for closure, suspecting St. Vincent's was run into the ground on purpose to pave way for a new development.
De Blasio appears to fear similar wrongdoing, also urging Cuomo to be transparent with SUNY's plans for LICH.
"Moreover, many of the decisions driving these hospitals toward closure are being made behind closed-doors, out of view of the people most deeply affected by them," de Blasio said in the letter.
Spokespeople for the two hospitals did not respond to requests for comment.
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