All night vigil for threatened Interfaith Medical Center

Rev. Daughtry: ‘Don’t let hospital closings be your legacy.’

August 12, 2013 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Interfaith Medical Center supporters, the faithful and members of the New York State Nurses Association and 1199SEIU held an all-night candlelight vigil Sunday to bring attention to the imminent closure of the only hospital serving residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.

Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Church, age 82, challenged the younger members of his congregation to keep up with him as he sang, chanted and marched for the hospital. Rev. Daughtry called Interfaith crucial and its planned closure a public health emergency.

“Interfaith is important because it provides services to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and even Brownsville, since St. Mary’s closed,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday. “In case of an emergency it will take much longer – the next hospital is two, three miles away. In that time a person could die, or at least their condition would worsen. You’re dealing with life and death issues. What is incomprehensible is we’re closing hospitals in communities that everyone agrees are in desperate need for quality medical services.”

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Closing Interfaith will have a negative economic impact on the area, he added. “There are 1,544 employees there; you can imagine what impact that will have on the community. It is a disadvantaged community and one in desperate need.

“Being an old man, I remember when [Mayor] Ed Koch closed Sydenham Hospital [in Harlem] in ’86,” he said. “Before his passing, Ed Koch indicated it was one of the major mistakes of his administration. I’m saying to the powers that be, let hospital closings not be your legacy, but that you kept them open, and not only that, but that you enhanced the quality of health services for the community.

“There are some things you fight for, and even if you lose it was worth the fight,” he said. “To fight for medical services for people is a good fight and one I want to be in at all times.”

Interfaith declared bankruptcy in December and announced on August 1 it was beginning the process of shutting down, sending layoff warning notices to its employees. Its closure, however, has been postponed until an August 26 bankruptcy hearing.

Another major Brooklyn hospital, Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill, is embroiled in a legal battle against its operator, SUNY Downstate, to stay open, and at least two other Brooklyn hospitals are edging towards closure.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, calling the potential closures a health crisis, has called for the creation of a Brooklyn Health Authority, with sweeping but temporary powers to transform hospitals and provide healthcare to the entire borough. The Authority would prevent hospitals from closing without alternatives in place.

“If LICH and Interfaith go down, a quarter of a million people will have to go much farther for their emergency care, when every minute makes a difference,” he said.

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