For Immediate Release
March 24, 2023
United University Professions & Higher Education Advocates Call on State Leaders to Restore Critical Mission Funding for the Brooklyn Academic Medical Center
BROOKLYN, NY – United University Professions (UUP), the nation’s largest higher education union, today hosted an all-union and community advocates “Brooklyn Needs Downstate” rally at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn to fight for an immediate $133 million operating aid infusion for the financially troubled public teaching hospital.
Brooklyn faith and community leaders and Downstate hospital staff joined UUP President Fred Kowal and statewide labor leaders at the rally to urge the state to restore funding to Downstate. More than a decade of disinvestment by the state has endangered the Brooklyn community’s access to equitable, high-quality health care services.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, New York AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, and representatives from New York State United Teachers, the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employees Federation also spoke at the noontime rally.
“SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is a crucial piece of New York’s public health care system, providing life-saving care to all who walk through its doors, including the most vulnerable members of our communities and those who can’t afford to pay. SUNY Downstate’s medical school serves as a pipeline of doctors and medical professionals to New York City, training the next generation of health care workers while also providing cutting-edge health care services,” said UUP President Fred Kowal. “The state must act now to restore this funding to our SUNY hospitals, and especially to SUNY Downstate. We cannot cut corners when it comes to health care, and when our hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open, we are failing our fellow New Yorkers. Brooklyn needs Downstate.”
"SUNY Downstate is our community's teaching hospital, and literally kept Brooklyn going during the darkest days of the pandemic. Politicians talk about "essential, frontline workers" and there is simply no institution that is more essential, operating on the front lines, than Downstate. This year's budget must properly fund Downstate and our other hospitals to ensure they can continue providing care to my constituents,” said New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie.
“This essential public teaching hospital only focused on COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic, meaning they were on the frontlines when New Yorkers – particularly those in Central Brooklyn -- needed them the most. Guess what, New York State, SUNY Downstate needs you now. We need the state to step up to fortify a meaningful future for patients, current staff and future gems of the medical professional,” said Assemblywoman Latrice Walker.
“After years of intense pressure on our healthcare professionals, now is the time to double down on building out the career pipelines that can address staffing shortages and ease the strain on our doctors, nurses, and medical professionals who have worked day and night caring for our people. SUNY Downstate is an essential partner in this mission for health equity for patients and worker justice for health professionals. We must come together to support this hub of wellness in Brooklyn and commit fully to addressing generations of inequities with a firm dedication to home-grown medical excellence,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.
“SUNY's public teaching hospitals train the next generation of New York's healthcare professionals and care for patients across the state, often in marginalized communities; they also provide lifesaving maternal care, emergency services, and of course, COVID care during the height of the pandemic. More New York City physicians have trained at Downstate than any other medical school, and its College of Nursing is one of the few remaining nurse education programs that helps to recruit and retain diverse professionals, which is critical in a field facing ongoing staffing issues and turnover. Without the $133 million funding needed in the state budget, these institutions won’t survive, and with the loss of this facility alone, thousands in Central Brooklyn will lose their healthcare, and 4,000 jobs would be lost. This is what we call a code red – similar to what we see around the country in hospitals and healthcare workforces grappling with ongoing disinvestment, and a profession in need of pipeline programs, training, and support. It’s time to stop the bleeding,” said Randi Weingarten, AFT President.
"SUNY public teaching hospitals not only provide high-quality health care to all those who need it, regardless of their ability to pay, but they also play a vital role in educating and training the next generation of medical professionals. We must ensure that Downstate Medical Center and all our SUNY hospitals get the funding they need to continue to fulfill their public healthcare missions,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO.
“The community turns to SUNY Downstate for high-quality, compassionate care. And our state relies on teaching hospitals to provide world-class training for future health care workers. But the hospital is facing a crisis due to chronic underfunding. The state must invest in our SUNY teaching hospitals now, so future generations of New Yorkers can rest assured that they will have access to extraordinary care,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.
“New York state needs a vibrant, functional SUNY Downstate to care for the sick and to develop the next generation of black and brown health care professionals that the city and state so desperately need. As the only COVID-designated hospital in the state, SUNY Downstate opened its doors to the sickest people in our community during the pandemic, and it would simply be wrong for us to forget those sacrifices now. It is in our collective interest to resource this institution -- and all of the SUNY Hospitals -- so that they can continue to provide top quality medical care and education in their communities. We call on Governor Hochul and the NYS Legislature to provide all of the funding needed to maintain and modernize SUNY Downstate’s operations – anything short of that is an abdication of the government’s responsibilities to Brooklyn, New York City and New York State,” said Wayne Spence, President of the NYS Public Employees Federation.
“SUNY Downstate Medical Center is an integral part of the healthcare system for the people of NYC, particularly the residents of Brooklyn. The state needs to provide the necessary funding for our SUNY hospitals, including Downstate, which provides quality medical care for our most vulnerable population,” said Mary Sullivan, President of the Civil Service Employees Association.
“The National Action Network stands in complete solidarity with the American Federation of Teachers and United University Professionals as we work together to keep SUNY Downstate open. Access to quality healthcare is vital. To lose it will cause considerable harm to those who are already marginalized. It must remain open,” said The Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder and President of National Action Network.
“We are calling on the state legislators to fund SUNY Downstate and make it whole. This institution is vital to Flatbush and the entire Brooklyn. It's an economic engine that employs thousands, the only teaching hospital in Brooklyn and health care facility that thousands depend on,” said Bishop Orlando Findlayter, New Hope Christian Fellowship, Community Advocate.
“After staging numerous rallies and protests in 2013 and 2014 to save our hospital, we once again stand strong and in solidarity with our state representatives, faith and community leaders and union siblings as we loudly call on the state to provide necessary critical mission funding to SUNY Downstate. Our hospital, Brooklyn’s fourth-largest employer, provides necessary, life-saving care to tens of thousands of patients each year. Our hospital and our members were there for New York during the pandemic—and especially when Downstate served as a COVID-only hospital in 2020 during the worst days of COVID in New York City. Now, it’s time for the state to be there for SUNY Downstate,” said Redetha Abrahams-Nichols, UUP Downstate Chapter President.
The state’s chronic underfunding of SUNY hospitals has reached a tipping point, resulting in the loss of physicians in key units and deteriorating facilities—particularly at SUNY Downstate, which treats nearly 400,000 patients each year. The hospital has long served as a safety net for the most vulnerable members of the Brooklyn community.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Downstate was a designated COVID-only hospital, treating the sickest New Yorkers at the epicenter of the pandemic.
Despite these efforts, the state continues to neglect the funding needs required to continue providing quality health care to community members. To meet these needs, UUP is calling on the state to:
- Restore the state subsidy for SUNY Downstate to $133 million.
- Reinstate and make permanent the coverage of capital debt service for the SUNY hospitals; and
- Enact a multi-year capital program at SUNY Downstate with an initial investment of $100 million to modernize and upgrade the emergency department and establish a Center of Maternal and Child Care Services.
For more information on UUP’s 2023 legislative agenda, visit:https://uupinfo.org/legislation/pdf/UUP23StateLegAgenda.pdf.