Lawmakers laud community, UUP
for SUNY Downstate fight
UUP Treasurer Rowena Blackman-Stroud thanks Brooklyn faith-based and community members for fighting to save health care services and jobs at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
Brooklyn legislators praised members of the grassroots SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders, as well as UUP and unions such as PEF and CSEA, for their resolute battle to save the beleaguered borough hospital.
Lawmakers made their remarks at a Feb. 6 Coalition prayer breakfast and news conference to defend the state-run public hospital and devise a strategy to keep it open and fully operational. More than 100 coalition members and supporters attended the meeting.
“I want to say thank you to the community and the unions,” said Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn). “Your work on behalf of Downstate has been critical and essential. Without you, the elected officials cannot successfully advocate for this hospital.”
“Were it not for your efforts, Downstate would be closed by now,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn).
UUP began its fight for SUNY Downstate more than two years ago, after the state-appointed Brooklyn Health Systems Redesign Work Group recommended the closure of inpatient services at Downstate’s University Hospital.
The assemblymen also urged Coalition members to press legislators in Albany to support SUNY Downstate in the weeks leading up to an expected April 1 approval of the 2014-15 state budget.
“It is critical to keep coming to Albany,” said Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn). “The pressure must stay on through the budget process.”
“We desperately need you to be part of the process,” said Brennan. “We can’t do it without you.”
Blackman-Stroud said that more than 500 Downstate workers, many of them represented by UUP, have lost their jobs over the last 18 months as part of the hospital’s so-called restructuring plan. “This is just the beginning of our most recent fight,” she said.
Brennan also said that he expected legislators to turn aside Article VII language in the 2014-15 Executive Budget that would allow up to five private corporations to control public hospitals in New York.
“We rejected it last year and I anticipate we will reject it again,” he said.
Faith-based and community leaders also signed up to take part in a March “interfaith fast” to bring attention to the latest attempts to close or privatize SUNY Downstate. Pastor Gilford Monrose of Mt. Zion Church of God (7th Day), above, holds one of the sign-up boards.
The state-operated public hospital provides health care and vital safety-net services each day to thousands of patients, many of who have little or no insurance coverage. SUNY Downstate accepts all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.