As Florence Johnston Collective prepares for a picket tonight at 7PM, things have been heating up at Interfaith over the last week. Over 1,500 workers and 250,000 patients enter their 5th month of waiting to find out if they will have jobs, emergency services, mental health services, ob/gyn care, and more after Interfaith management, with pressure from the NYS Department of Health, filed bankruptcy in December of 2012 after receiving promises of extra funding if they completed the closure. Since then, negative changes have already started at the hospital making working conditions deteriorate and patient care slide downhill, including the departure of many workers (ex, 30% of nurses at IMC are now per diem). Politicians and the two major unions–NYSNA and SEIU 1199–have raised a few possibilities to keep the hospital open, but none of these proposals addresses the long-term problems at Interfaith-overwork, stress leading to competition between workers, long wait times, and a long list of citations since the announcement of closure. In fact, all of the proposals from the unions and political candidates, if they are successful in keeping the hospital open, will either maintain the same poor conditions or worsen them. Meanwhile, FJC is looking to Greece and to Harlem for examples of creating new health systems by and for workers and the community.
Here is a list of the major proposals by the union leaders and politicians:
1) The hospital stays open with limited state funds until NY State receives a “Medicaid Waiver”, money given to the State DoH because they cut 17.1 billion in Medicaid over the last 3 years. This proposals rests on the assumption that the cuts to Medicaid are somehow unrelated to the decline in the hospital itself–which is unlikely–and does not include concerns over how restrictions on how Medicaid money will be used.
2) Broker a merger between Interfaith and another hospital, probably Kingsbrook. Even the union says this could lead to more cuts, and the ongoing merger of St Luke’s, Roosevelt, and Mt Sinai under Continuum Health Partners has already lead to layoffs (based on information from inside the hospital, FJC believes this number is much lower than actual, since housekeeping staff have been facing layoffs since before the merger).
3) Rely on Mayoral Candidate Bill Deblasio and Public Advocate hopeful Leticia James to pull strings with the state and bankruptcy court–hardly a long term solution.
Florence Johnston Collective’s picket tonight is the first explicit step in a collective process for stopping hospital closures that doesn’t just keep sub-par service going with exploited workers, but builds community and worker control over the hospital itself. We have given the politicians and union leaders plenty of time–its time to take matters into our own hands! Community and Worker Control over Interfaith Now!