All-night vigil held to protest Brooklyn hospital's closing

August 12, 2013 3:34:56 AM PDT
Community members in Brooklyn came together Sunday for an all-night vigil to protest the planned closure of Interfaith Medical Center.

Leading the charge to keep the hospital open was a passionate 82-year-old reverend who says the stakes are high.

"The absence of this hospital means that people will have to go distances for medical attention," Reverend Herbert Daughtry said.

The protest began around 5 p.m. and was still going strong Monday morning. It lasted until nearly 6 a.m.

Armed with chants, prayers and candles, the Bedford-Stuyvesant clergy and local leaders are hopful. However, the harsh reality is that Interfaith is broke and has been relying on money from the state for a number of years.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he is unwilling to bail out failing hospitals.

"If you look closely and follow the proper guidelines, money is available for safety-net hospitals," District Leader for the 56th Assembly district Robert Cornegy said.

"Safety net hospitals" is how advocates describe facilities in low-income areas that provide much needed services. They say the government has a moral obligation to care for the sick and the poor.

"What the government is saying to us, though, is that there are beds available within the borough, so it's okay to close a hospital," Cornegy said. "Because make it with beds in Coney Island and beds in other places, but it doesn't account for the emergency response time necessary to save a life."

Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Stephen Autry says the nearest hospital is in Woodhull on Flushing Avenue, and that is several miles away.

Reverend Daughtry, has spent many hours at Interfaith Medical Center as both a patient and as a man of God, praying with the sick and dying.

"I'm saying to the powers that be, let not your legacy be you close a hospital in a community where so many needed medical service," he said.

Organizers say they are presenting a new plan to the bankruptcy court on August 26, and they are optimistic. On the contrary, hospital officials are not. They are planning to close the doors for good in October.