Fasting to Save SUNY Downstate

Fasting to Save SUNY Downstate

March 7, 2014

The SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community will begin a 48-hour fast on Sunday in an effort to save the embattled SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn and keep it operational as a provider of health services and emergency medical care.

The fast will kick off with a news conference on Sunday at 3 p.m. outside of the entrance to SUNY Downstate, and will include remarks from Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the parent union of the Public Employees Federation and the United University Professions, two unions that represent workers at the medical center. Susan Kent, the president of PEF, UUP's Frederick Kowal and several clergy members are also scheduled to speak.

In a recent op-ed article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Kowal explained that the coalition wants to keep private corporations from taking over state hospitals. Language in the state budget would "open the door to as many as five corporations to operate SUNY’s public hospitals," he wrote

In the article, Kowal added that he believes the answer to saving SUNY Downstate should be based on the "Brooklyn Hospitals Safety Net Plan," a UUP-backed initiative authored by Dr. Fred Hyde, a health care expert and professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Hyde's plan calls for the return of funds taken from underpayment to doctors and hospitals by the state for "savings" in the Medicaid program, and the application of that money to the development of comprehensive ambulatory care centers, which would be owned by sponsoring hospitals, staffed by hospital employees currently employed in inpatient care and serve as educational sites for resident physicians.

The tenuous fiscal state of SUNY Downstate mirrors other troubled hospitals in the Brooklyn such as Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith Medical Center. LICH was recently thrown a lifeline when the state decided to sell the hospital to a private operator, with the condition that it will continue to provide some form of medical services. Interfaith's future as a full-service hospital remains unclear, but advocates have held similar rallies with the hope that a portion of the $8 billion Medicaid waiver that the state received from the federal government might be used to save it. 



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Nick Powell