Op-Ed: What losing two hospitals will mean for Brooklyn


When you’re having a stroke or a heart attack, distance matters. A few minutes can make the difference between survival and preventable death. And a new report released by my office found that for a quarter million New Yorkers, these concerns can literally turn life-threatening if Brooklyn loses more hospitals.

Right now, Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith Medical Center are on the brink of closure, with potentially disastrous effects on neighborhoods like Cobble Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

More than 250,000 residents would be forced to travel farther to the nearest emergency room if these hospitals shut their doors. Interfaith’s closure would affect nearly 175,000 residents, while the loss of LICH would impact about 80,000. Together, that’s a 10th of all Brooklyn residents.

Research shows that hospital closures reduce access to primary care, worsen health indicators and strain remaining hospitals. We’re already seeing the impact that ambulance diversions from LICH have had.

Since ambulances have been banned from taking patients to LICH, volume has spiked heavily in the ERs at neighboring hospitals that are handling the additional patients, with waits to see a doctor as long as 10 hours.

For Brooklynites who depend on Interfaith, the two closest hospitals are Kings County Hospital Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, both more than a mile away.

For those who rely on LICH, the nearest hospitals would be New York Methodist Hospital and the Brooklyn Hospital Center—at a significantly greater distance from Cobble Hill.

If we lose two hospitals in Brooklyn—on top of all those we’ve already lost under this mayor—health care in the borough may never recover.

Brooklyn cannot afford to lose LICH and Interfaith. Their closure would create avoidable risks for surrounding communities, lengthen response time, and burden already-taxed nearby facilities.

Earlier this month, I secured a restraining order, upheld by two courts, to block the closure of LICH. I’ve also been working to support a restructuring plan for Interfaith to prevent its shutdown.

But that’s not enough. That’s why I called on Governor Cuomo to intervene and on the state’s health department to support a restructuring plan for Interfaith.

The time to act is now. We’ve lost 12 hospitals in the 12 years under this administration. We can’t let the interests of the real estate industry trump people’s health.

We won’t let the greed that destroyed St. Vincent’s do the same to LICH. Bed-Stuy needs Interfaith. Cobble Hill needs LICH.

We can—and we must—end this epidemic of hospital closures.

Bill de Blasio is New York City public advocate.

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