Residents want an ER back in Southwest Brooklyn

A Dyker Heights resident is sick to her stomach over the fact that Southwest Brooklyn has been left without a fully functioning emergency room since Victory Memorial Hospital was shuttered in 2008.

Currently, the site is an urgent care facility, operated by SUNY Downstate, open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The staff can provide stitches and take care of broken bones, but cannot accommodate life-threatening emergencies.

“This is a critical shortage for people in these communities,” said Maria Bonacci, adding that the other nearby emergency rooms are “overwhelming,” as well as overwhelmed by the number of patients passing through their doors.

Bonacci recalled bringing her son to a nearby ER, which she said was three-deep with gurneys with zero privacy for patients.

She added that Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst are located at the foot of the Verrazano-Bridge and near the only functioning army base in the city.

“[If there is] any type of attack, disaster or car accident, where are these people going?” Bonacci asked. “I don’t think anyone is being served and I don’t know how you can treat people like this and call it health care. It’s horrible.”

Bonacci said that when her husband was alive, he suffered from diabetes and went to Victory Memorial Hospital when he needed emergency care. “He was treated well there, better than I can imagine. I don’t know what would happen today if he was alive and I had to rush him [to an ER]. I would be very, very scared,” she explained.

Bill Guarinello, chairperson of Community Board 11 and former chair of Victory’s board, said that Bonacci’s concerns were valid.

“There have been conversations with CB11 and CB10 in concert with Maimonides Medical Center and Lutheran Medical Center and we have opened a dialogue with people’s concerns,” Guarinello said, adding that MMC is willing to hire a consultant to look at the trend of emergency room use in the area.

“The two community boards are keeping an eye on this issue, but it’s much bigger than us. Even if you want hospitals to expand …it’s about the almighty dollar,” Guarinello contended. “The pressure has to be put on by the general public and we have to find out how we can infuse more money into the infrastructure.”

They will have an uphill battle if the most recent report of the Berger Commission – which initially recommended Victory’s closure – is any indication.

Late last year, the group again took a stand against use of the facility as a hospital or ER, when it made a series of recommendations, including that With the new campus and expansion of services at neighboring Kings County Hospital, SUNY Downstate should reconsider any planned expansion of beds at the former Victory Hospital site and any development of an ambulatory facility in the vicinity of University Hospital or at the former Victory Hospital site. Any request by SUNY Downstate to open additional inpatient beds at the Victory Hospital site should be denied.

In addition, on August 14, SUNY Downstate announced it would be laying off thousands of employees, which Bonacci said “adds insult to injury.”

Ronald Najman, director of communication and special projects for SUNY Downstate, told this paper, “The urgent care enter will remain open as well as the other services there.”

Assemblymember Peter Abbate said that he has met with the State Health Department, regarding this issue. “I’ve tried to emphasize the need not only for more emergency rooms but better funding for our area hospitals. We need better and more expansive care for the people in our area,” he told this paper. “I’m very distressed about this situation. It’s something that, along with the rest of the Brooklyn delegation, I have been trying to fix.”

But Bonacci said she wants to see action. “I don’t know what this community is waiting for…I don’t know if they are waiting for a disaster of if they have their heads in the sand,” she said, “I am just aggravated.”

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