NYSNA has been using the same slogan at Interfaith.
Today is the final day of emergency services for Long Island College Hospital. We have tried our best to stay on top of this developing story, but as in the case of Interfaith Hospital right down Atlantic Ave, the story changes almost daily, and different workers are told different things by the unions and management. Our recent piece on LICH in The Brooklyn Rail was an attempt to piece together this confusing story, and we welcome any comments or corrections.
Since the measures to close the hospital began, workers have mostly been kept out of the process and kept in the dark by management, their unions, and other politicians about what is going on. The only hope being offered is the legal route, which will decide the operator of the hospital, and determine how much of its prime real estate will go to the same greedy developers who are dropping luxury condos all over once-affordable Brooklyn neighborhoods (and speeding up the process of more working class hospitals closing down).
Last Fall Bill de Blasio graced LICH and Interfaith on a regular basis, staging high profile media spectacles in their defense, while running for mayor as the candidate who could save NYC hospitals. When he scored the Democratic Party nomination for mayor, however, he pulled the disappearing act that New Yorkers have come to expect from their politicians.
Upon learning that ER services would close today, we did something de Blasio and pals haven’t done since before the election: walked over there and talked to the workers.
“Some doctors say de Blasio is helping out behind the scenes, but I don’t believe it” one worker told us. Indeed, nobody we met believes that.
“Typical politician,” another told us. “This is all show anyway; this was all decided as soon as SUNY Downstate took over. It’s just a question of who will take over and how much of it will be condos.” She told us that it was the plan all along to sell, and SUNY was “waiting for the real estate prices to go up” while the livelihoods and lives of working class New Yorkers swing in the balance.
Like the northernmost LICH building, we learned that the parking garage across the street is a “floating zone”, meaning that a developer could renegotiate its zoning to build condos upwards of fifty stories. The parking garage, everyone agreed, is going down. But cars are easier to relocate than people on dialysis. “‘Dialysis patients are upset” one worker told us. “They’ve been coming here for years.”
Two different people told us that the deal with Brooklyn Health Partners (BHP), widely thought to be the inheritor of LICH until the deal fell through earlier this month, was never a serious possibility. “They never had the right licenses” one worker told us.
One thing is for sure — the option of LICH remaining a full service hospital is off the table. We heard repeated speculations that a minimal urgent care center will remain, as well as a diminished outpatient facility. This is consistent with the trend in NYC health care, away from full service hospitals and toward urgent care centers for working class New Yorkers and chic private clinics for the wealthy, which we began to document in Issue 1 of Vital Signs.
Now that the political route and the legal process have failed, what can we do to save LICH? And if we can’t save LICH, are we doomed to make the same mistake again? Will we keep relying on the hollow words of politicians, the bosses’ court system, and undemocratic unions? When are we going to stand up, as workers and community members, and fight for ourselves?
We think there’s no time like the present.
No more “calming down”. No more trusting politicians. No more waiting for the courts to decide against us. We need to take action. We need to take the first steps toward health care based not on profit, but on human needs. We need pickets and we need occupations.