All photos courtesy of Facebook group 'Keep Brooklyn Hospitals Open for Care'.
Residents in Brooklyn, New York are fighting to save a local hospital threatened with closure – by mourning its death. On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters streamed over the Brooklyn Bridge in a mock funeral procession to draw attention to the plight of Long Island College Hospital. Some carried fake tombstones dabbed with bloody slogans: one read ‘Condos rise, Brooklyn dies,’ in reference to concerns that valuable hospital land could be flogged to developers. The hospital's location is considered prime real-estate.
Many residents accuse the State University of New York (SUNY) – which runs the unit – of putting local care under the knife by trying to kill off the non-profit institution. Earlier this year, the university’s board of trustees voted unanimously to pull the plug on the loss-maker. SUNY argues that the hospital is losing too much money and its infrastructure is falling apart, leaving the facility unsafe. The decision triggered outrage, and a long fight back by the local community that hasn’t yet reached a climax. The latest twist came a few days ago in the courts, when a Brooklyn judge ordered that the hospital remain open. SUNY say they’ll seek permission to close the facility as planned.
Protesters also rallied against the threatened closure of the Interfaith Medical Center, another local facility that serves a mainly poor population. New York’s Brooklynites aren’t alone, however: other hospitals in New York have already been forced to shut their doors, such as St. Vincent’s in 2010. It’s now the site of a luxury apartment complex. Across the United States, financial problems have left some non-profit hospitals clinging to life-support.
Some of the protesters in Brooklyn say the closure of hospitals could leave people without easy access to local care, even if they are insured under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. ‘Obama Care’, as its otherwise known, aims to fill the gaps in health coverage by increasing its affordability and getting everyone insured. But critics claim that while his signature legislation is well-intentioned, parts of the reform that penalise under-performance could end up pushing cash-strapped hospitals into bankruptcy. Sean Petty – from the New York State Nurses Association – argues that these penalties will hurt poor hospitals that have already had to cut corners to save money.
Video courtesy of OccupyTVNY.com.
“I was rushed there in a life or death situation. If this would happen now and I had to go to another hospital, I might not survive”
Susan Raboy took part in the march and says if it wasn’t for her local hospital, she might not be alive today. She’s a retiree and lives in Brooklyn, near the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.
The march was a funeral march to mourn what could be the loss of healthcare in Brooklyn. The community, the patients, the nurses and doctors, we formed a funeral march of hundreds and hundreds of people over the Brooklyn Bridge. We built caskets, we all wore black, we stopped traffic. We need to get attention to what’s happening, because if it can happen in our part of Brooklyn it can happen anywhere in New York.There was some civil disobedience, but that was planned and there were at least 10 people arrested. They purposefully blocked traffic, knowing they were going to be arrested. There were no problems with the march itself; it was very peaceful. In some ways, it was sad. But we were also happy that so many people joined us. There is great support; people are calling our elected officials, writing letters, going to meetings. No one wants our hospital to close, regardless of whether they use it or not. Everyone understands the importance of having a hospital in your vicinity.Protesters stage a mock funeral procession over the Brooklyn Bridge.The hospital’s important for me because it’s the hospital that saved my life. On a Friday afternoon in August 2011, I woke from a nap in severe pain, as if someone was cutting me in half. I was rushed there in a life or death situation. It turns out that I had sepsis and a perforated colon, and I was in the Intensive Care Unit for most of my month's stay at the hospital. Two surgeries and nine months later, I made a full recovery. It has superb medical care.If this would happen now and I had to go to another hospital, I might not survive. We are in a very congested area. We need to be able to get to a hospital desperately. And when I say desperately, I mean it could be life-threatening for some. I don’t want to travel 20 minutes by ambulance. I want a hospital in the community that I live in.When we had Hurricane Sandy, the hospital served as a shelter for people living in the low-lying area of Red Hook. If it was shut down, and we had another hurricane, where would those people go?Protesters – including New York City councillor Brad Lander to the far right of the picture – stage a sit-in to block traffic. Lander was later arrested along with several others for civil disobedience.The hospital sits on very valuable land. I personally think the bottom line is that the State University of New York feel like the hospital is losing money, so they want to close it and sell off the property to build fancy co-ops and condos. We do not need more condos with views of the Statue of Liberty [Her concerns are shared by others in the community].I believe in Obama Care. But for the people that are supposed to benefit under Obama Care, if their local hospital is closed and their doctors no longer practice in the area, what good is this new medical insurance to them? That’s why we have to make sure this hospital stays open.I hope this doesn’t happen anywhere else in the country, and I hope people see what’s happening and hold their elected officials accountable. This has been a nightmare. But I am determined to save it.This article was written by France 24 journalist Andrew Hilliar @andyhilliar