Protesters and local lawmakers rallied in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn Thursday to demand that state officials save Interfaith Medical Center, a day after hospital officials submitted a plan in bankruptcy court to completely close the facility by November.
Demonstrating on Atlantic Avenue in front of the medical center, hospital patients, doctors, nurses, community activists, elected officials and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio said that Governor Andrew Cuomo should intervene and provide the money needed to keep the financially strapped hospital open.
"Losing Interfaith is not an option: not an option for the people of Bed-Stuy, not an option for people in surrounding communities," de Blasio said.
On Wednesday, hospital officials asked a bankruptcy court for permission to close, but the request still needs approval from the court and the state Department of Health.
The plan would have the hospital stop new admissions and divert ambulances in two weeks, and end elective surgeries a week later.
The emergency room would close on September 14, inpatient care would end on September 15 and the entire hospital would be completely closed by November 14.
More than 1,500 employees have been issued a warning of layoffs.
Interfaith Medical Center has had financial problems pretty much since it was created in the early 1980s, ironically as a merger of two other financially troubled hospitals, St. John's Episcopal and Brooklyn Jewish.
Demonstrators also noted that another Brooklyn hospital, Long Island College Hospital, has faced the possibility of closing over the last few months.
"We'd like to believe that our mayor would be at the forefront of protecting health care for all New Yorkers, but yesterday, he shrugged off the question of what we're going to do to save Interfaith and LICH," de Blasio said. "Yesterday, he said, quote, unquote, 'You can't have a hospital on every corner.' It was disrespectful."
Protesters urged state officials not to repeat history, and cited former Mayor Ed Koch's regret over shutting another doomed hospital in 1980, Sydenham Hospital in Harlem.
"You remember [Koch] said one of the great mistakes that he made during his administration was to close Sydenham Hospital," said the Reverend Herbert Daughtry, an activist. "I appeal to all the powers that be who can make this decision: let not your legacy be that you have made a mistake in closing Interfaith Hospital. Rather, let your legacy be that you stepped forward and did the right thing. "
Another rally is scheduled for August 14, the night before the first phase of closing is set to begin and the closure plan is scheduled to be considered in bankruptcy court .
It is not clear yet whether lawsuits will be filed to try to keep Interfaith from closing, as is happening with LICH.