Elected officials weigh in on how to save the Brooklyn healthcare system

August 1, 2013 Heather Chin
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As Brooklynites panic at the possibility of near-simultaneous closures of two major hospitals in the borough — Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill and Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant — many elected officials have responded with statements of outrage, legal appeals of their own, and, now, alternative plans for how to save Brooklyn’s healthcare system.

According  to Public Advocate (and mayoral candidate) Bill de Blasio, “saving Brooklyn’s health care” will require the creation of a Brooklyn Health Authority that has the power to manage state Health Department funds and negotiate for hospitals as a group, thus keeping costs down and acting as a first step to making Brooklyn health care a sustainable enterprise.

de Blasio’s plan calls for “a national model for innovative urban health care,” built on four key pillars:

  • Creating a Brooklyn Health Authority appointed by the Mayor and the Governor to coordinate spending of health dollars, drive down costs by helping Brooklyn’s small hospitals negotiate as a collective, and push for higher care standards.
  • Preventing free-fall hospital bankruptcies that risk shuttering existing health facilities without new alternatives in place.
  • Coordinating health facility construction under a new Health Care Transformation and Construction Fund, which will help site and develop new clinics, ambulatory care and hospital construction based on community need.
  • Implementing higher standards of care to treat chronic diseases and prevent Hospital Acquired Infections, starting with city-run hospitals like Kings County, Woodhull and Coney Island. Two-thirds of Brooklyn’s hospitals were identified by the New York State Department of Health as having rates of Hospital Acquired Infections “significantly higher” than the state average.

The plan has already received support from hospital worker unions such as the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and 1199 SEIU, with NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo stating that “Brooklyn hospitals can survive and thrive – with fairer access to state and federal funding, and more planning and coordination,” and 1199SEIU President George Gresham calling the plan “clear [and] well thought-out” for the long-term.

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Another, somewhat similar, plan was proposed by State Senator Kevin Parker and Assemblymember Karim Camara, whose suggestion for a Brooklyn Health Commission also aims to create a “sustainable [system that] would bring Brooklyn’s health care system into the 21st Century.”

According to Parker, the proposed Commission is:

“. . . based on the one provided for in [his Senate] bill, S.5916, which would conduct a comprehensive epidemiological study of Brooklyn, and analyze the borough’s health care assets in order to construct a solution that would not only fix Brooklyn’s current crisis, but would bring Brooklyn’s health care system into the 21st Century.”

Parker also cited the famous seven-year-old Berger Commission report on New York State health care, stating that:

“Unlike the Berger Commission however which focused on reducing “excess capacity,” the Brooklyn Health Commission would be focused on reorganizing and better using Brooklyn’s existing health care assets and providers, and would also strategically deploy reserves necessary in case of public emergencies like Hurricane Sandy. After all, 8 months after Hurricane Sandy, Coney Island Hospital is still closed, and without the “excess” beds and health care professionals in Brooklyn’s health care network, there would have been a massive shortage of beds in Brooklyn and near inability to provide quality health care.”

However, the idea of creating a borough-wide health network is something that both de Blasio and Parker’s respective plans share with the State University of New York (SUNY), which de Blasio is suing in his fight to get them to stop their plans to close LICH.

On May 28, SUNY presented its restructuring plan to its Board of Trustees, outlining its plan to save itself and SUNY Downstate Hospital by not only ceding ownership of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) to one of five potential healthcare institutions, but by also streamlining its teaching hospital, University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB) and, specifically, creating a Brooklyn hospital network that could potentially allow more collaboration for degrees of patient care, and also enable a pooling of influence when dealing with the administrative sides of things.

 What do you think of these ideas? What would you change about them, if anything? 


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