Dershowitz joins ‘Save Maimonides’ campaign

Drive linked to nursing home magnate, pols

August 19, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Alan Dershowitz, one of the most high-profile lawyers in the United States and a Brooklyn native, has now lent his name to a “Save Maimonides” campaign that has constantly criticized Maimonides Medical Center’s operations and leadership.

Dershowitz, a Brooklyn College graduate, has represented a wide range of clients, ranging from Mike Tyson and Patty Hearst to Claus von Bulow and O.J. Simpson (alongside Johnnie Cochran). He was a member of former President Donald Trump’s defense team in Trump’s first impeachment trial.

The group, according to Crain’s New York Business, plans to hold a town hall meeting, at Ateres Chaya Hall in Borough Park, on Monday about alleged conditions at the hospital. A spokesperson for the hospital said the group did not invite Maimonides CEO Kenneth Gibbs or other hospital officials to the meeting.

The same group has been linked to Eliezer “Louis” Scheiner, a nursing home magnate who in 2020 offered to arrange tens of millions of dollars in philanthropic support in exchange for control of the board, THE CITY reported. The offer was declined, the publication quoted Gene Keilin, chair of the Maimonides board of trustees, as saying.

A Maimonides spokesperson said that the Save Maimonides organizers did not reach out to the hospital or Gibbs to invite them to the town hall, according to Crain’s New York Business.

Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park, one of Brooklyn’s largest and best-known hospitals. Wikimedia photo by Jim Henderson

The hospital spokesperson, Stephanie Baez, also sent the Eagle a statement about the upcoming meeting that said, in part, “Delivering the highest-quality care has always been a top priority for Maimonides Health. Listening to feedback is critical to that mission – that’s why we have a robust program of surveying, community outreach, and dialogue with individual patients and families through which we obtain thousands of pieces of valuable input each year. 

“But engaging in a choreographed meeting held by an organization that has defined itself by divisiveness, personal attacks, and political tactics is not a productive way to improve patient care,” the statement continued.

Asked why he decided to become involved, Dershowitz, who grew up in Borough Park near the hospital, told Crain’s that he was invited to speak at the upcoming meeting by Mendy Reiner, co-chair of Save Maimonides and the founder of a health care nonprofit. 

Reiner, according to Crain’s, said the group has raised about $500,000 from various sources. He also said it has collected more than 2,000 complaints about the hospital.

Kenneth Gibbs, president and CEO of Maimonides Medical Center, right, and Barry Stern, his counterpart at the smaller New York Community Hospital, announce their two institutions’ affiliation last year. Brooklyn Reporter file photo

In July, five Brooklyn elected officials — Councilmember Kalman Yeger; Assemblymembers Simcha Eisenstein, Marcela Mitaynes and Robert Carroll; and state Sen. Simcha Felder —wrote a letter to Gibbs demanding a town-hall meeting, according to THE CITY. Gibbs offered to meet with them individually or as a group, but didn’t mention a town hall.

Like every hospital, Maimonides suffered financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in staffing shortages. In February, the New York State Nurses Association held a rally outside the hospital protesting working conditions and understaffing, THE CITY reported.

However, since then, the hospital has reportedly hired more than 200 nurses, with plans to hire 50 more. 

“Despite these challenges, Maimonides nurses and health care professionals continue to be proud of the high-quality, culturally-competent care that we provide,” said Nancy Hagans, head of the union, recently. The union has distanced itself from Save Maimonides and has denied any involvement with the group, published reports say.

Last month, area residents received mail from a group known as United for Nurses, which has no online presence, saying that the hospital is on the brink of going broke. 

Save Maimonides, according to published reports, has been recruiting workers to hand out flyers in Borough Park and Midwood, and has offered $15 an hour to canvassers in a Craigslist ad.

The Leapfrog Group, which rates nonprofit institutions, has given Maimonides “achieved the (group’s) standard” or “considerable achievement” in most categories of medical care. 

Among the categories in which the hospital scored lower are infections after several procedures, and communications with parents and children during pediatric care. Leapfrog also gave Maimonides a “D” grade in hospital safety.

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