LICH update: Protesters mourn the state of Brooklyn healthcare


A “funeral march” protesting the confusing and unstable state of Brooklyn’s hospital and healthcare system kicked off the latest week of rallies and protests against the proposed closures of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and Interfaith Medical Center.

At the rally, on Wednesday, July 24, hundreds of patients, caregivers and elected leaders held their funeral march across the Brooklyn Bridge—not for a deceased loved one, but to illustrate the pending ominous impact of healthcare cuts. Physicians dressed as Grim Reapers, while interns and nurses served as pallbearers, all led by a marching band solemnly playing a funeral march.

The crew started out at Cadman Plaza, and ended in Foley Square in Manhattan.  Participants included members of organizations such as the New York State Nurses Association, caregivers of 1199SEIU United, and Healthcare Workers East.

Hospitals at risk for closing include Interfaith Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital. These closings are coming at an especially inconvenient time, the protesters contended, due to alarming increases in health disparities across Brooklyn, especially in low-income communities.

“We don’t think they should close hospitals in Brooklyn,” said Dalis Jean-Baptiste, a radiology technician at Brookdale Hospital, “More sick people is a danger to everyone in Brooklyn, maybe even an epidemic. Some hospitals are in major areas close by airports.”

“Moving the sick from place to place can put them, and everyone around them, at risk,” added Elaine, a research assistant at Brookdale.

Interfaith Medical Center is the only full-service hospital in Bed-Stuy, and SUNY’s attempts to shut down LICH have already proven to have catastrophic effects, the protesters say, citing as evidence the increased waiting time in neighboring ERs, an environment when timing is vital.

“SUNY doesn’t know how to manage its own hospitals; the doors were locked at the ER last week,” said a patient who joined the rally.

“A hospital is the most noble thing to have in a community,” said Mark, who works in the intensive care unit at LICH. “[Governor Andrew] Cuomo is making no efforts to save LICH—he wants his hands on that money, which is very sad. I call him ‘the governor of do nothing, say nothing.’ This is a time when he is supposed to make a big decision for a big city.”

That camaraderie and energy continued through the week, which saw two main events happen. The first was when an 81-year-old patient at LICH went missing for over a week before being found by police on July 29 at his Florida home, days after LICH/SUNY administrators purchased a one-way bus ticket in his name—a bus that the man, Celso Heredia, never boarded, somehow finding another way across state lines despite his confused mental state.

The second bit of hospital news comes from Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who drafted a “transformative plan to save Brooklyn’s ailing hospitals.”

The plan calls for “a national model for innovative urban health care,” built on four key pillars: (1) Creating a Brooklyn Health Authority, appointed by the mayor and the governor; (2) Preventing free-fall hospital bankruptcies without new alternatives in place; (3) Coordinating health facility construction via a new construction fund; and (4) Implementing higher standards of care that target hospitals with high rates of infection.

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