Rally against plans to close SUNY Downstate Hospital in Brooklyn

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, March 1, 2024
Rally held in Brooklyn to protest closing of longstanding hospital
Lauren Glassberg is outside of SUNY Downstate with the latest.

FLATBUSH, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A rally was held Thursday against plans to close SUNY Downstate Hospital in Brooklyn.

The state-run hospital is crumbling and would cost $4 billion to repair.

It is also operating with a $100 million deficit.

SUNY plans to transfer in-patient care to a wing across the street at Kings County Hospital.

The Downstate wing would provide 150 beds, but that's less than half of what Downstate currently holds.

"I've been here downstate for 24 years and I don't want to lose my job," said employee Maisha Price. "I would like to stay here. I would like to serve this community. It's a great hospital, a great facility."

SUNY says that half of the beds in the current hospital are usually vacant anyway.

Critics say the state needs a plan to address health needs in the area, notably the Black maternal health crisis.

"If she (Hochul) embraces this plan to close this place of healing, she will be locking out Black mothers and Black babies and that is wrong," said Frederick E. Kowal, United University Professions President.

The Reverend Al Sharpton and hospital workers were among those in attendance.

"I came here to do asthma classes when my daughter was young because she is asthmatic, and I have family members who work here," one rally participant said. She added that the care provided at the hospital was excellent.

New York State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie (D-Central Brooklyn) has been outspoken against the plan.

He says Black and Brown communities have at least 20% fewer healthcare providers per capita in their Brooklyn neighborhoods.

"It's not enough that we suffer from hyper tension and diabetes and heart disease and kidney failure," said Myrie. "What more to do have to give."

Myrie also said that Brooklyn ZIP codes with high percentages of Black residents have fewer hospital beds compared to other boroughs.

Governor Hochul has promised that most hospital workers there would keep their jobs. There is also a $300 million plan to build a new facility for outpatient services and academic programming.

A spokesperson for Hochul issued the following statement: "After decades of disinvestment at SUNY Downstate, Governor Hochul is the first governor to focus on the health care needs of Central Brooklyn. She has committed $400 million to bring high-quality health care to residents in a modernized facility while protecting health care jobs. At her direction, SUNY will continue to listen to the voices of residents as it finalizes plans to invest in and revitalize Downstate - not close it."

SUNY Medical School will continue, but it's unclear which doctors and professors would stay on and what candidates for the school they would attract.

"Downstate hospital is really important to us," said a first-year medical student. "We even have patients that come in and talk to us about their condition so that we can learn from them learning deeper than just in a textbook. So, I mean, of course, it's going to impact us."

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