BY ANNA SPIVAK & JAMIE DEJESUS
They’re not going down without a fight.
Days after a town hall meeting regarding the plan to eliminate 25 beds by closing in-patient medical surgery unit 12 West (12W), veterans, registered nurses and community members held a rally to protest the change.
The highly attended two-hour informational rally, held outside the hospital on Monday, June 22, saw a group of veterans proudly wearing shirts proclaiming their military affiliation and holding up American flags. Nurses held up signs that read “RNs say don’t cut access for veterans and Keep 12 W in Brooklyn open.”
For some, the proposed closure is personal.
“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people that came out here today,” said local Brooklyn Associate Director of National Nurses United and ICU nurse at the Brooklyn VA Michele Kurtoy. “I’m the daughter of a Navy vet and the granddaughter of a World War II 101st Airborne member. He was in Normandy and he’s still alive and kicking. I hold the hands of these veterans every day. I don’t want to stop holding their hands. They deserve the care. To shut down this unit is a sin because I can’t give the care they need anymore.”
“It feels terrible. Whenever there are any cuts in government, it always seems like the veterans get the cuts instead of seeing more benefits and keeping places open,” added Vietnam War veteran Andrew Romagnuolo. “They always try to cut, cut, cut. I don’t understand why. We were in a war zone and this is the thanks that we get.”
VA management explained that the closure is due to budget concerns and the move would save the hospital over $2 million a year. Despite a nearly two-hour meeting with hospital Director Martina Parauda [see other story on page], vets and nurses are still dismayed.
“Nurses don’t go around jumping outside very often. We really want to do things in a professional manner,” said registered nurse Sam Aldi. “I’ve been a nurse now for 40 years. I’m a nurse perfusionist at the Manhattan VA but we’re all connected at the hip here.”
Aldi puts the blame on management not being more communicative. “No registered nurses, no doctors, were ever given the ability to provide any input into this decision,” he said. “That’s a mistake. You just can’t do that in this day and age.”