The healthcare system that serves 2.1 million residents of Brooklyn is in crisis, due to widening healthcare disparities, a lack of primary and preventative care options, and financial challenges. Last month, 1199SEIU brought together delegates from eight Brooklyn hospitals for the first time to discuss the changes happening in healthcare. They discussed a feasibility study, which was commissioned by the commissioned by the New York State Department of Health and carried out by Northwell Ventures. The plan proposed significantly restructuring the borough’s healthcare system in order to transform health care delivery in the region, strengthen clinical programs, reduce hospital operating deficits and expand primary care capacity. The Labor Management Project sponsored and facilitated this special delegates meeting, which took place at the New York Marriott at The Brooklyn Bridge.
One of the top discussions focused on the proposed merger of Interfaith Medical Center, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center under the leadership of Northwell Health. Under the plan, the four would establish a new board and system-wide management to carry out the transformation while continuing to provide care to Brooklyn residents. Brookdale, Interfaith and Wyckoff would remain community hospitals. Following investments from the state, Kingsbrook, which is located in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, would become a post-acute, long-term care and acute rehabilitation facility. It would also continue to offer emergency services, but its medical and surgical cases would be transferred to Brookdale. Its behavioral health patients would go to Interfaith.
Interfaith President and CEO LaRay Brown acknowledged that the changes would affect jobs. “Though the state has committed to ensure that the workforce will be retained, that doesn’t mean that your job will be the same. As we try to evolve from a hospital-centric system to an ambulatory system, folks’ work will be different.” she said.
The delegates discussed the core principles necessary to create a healthy future for Brooklyn residents:
- Access to high quality care for all
- Provision of the services and resources to reduce health care disparities between populations
- Maintenance of current union standards and no loss of union jobs
- A fully funded plan to ensure that all healthcare workers have a place in the new system
- Investment in the local economy through purchasing and infrastructure development
- Sufficient funding to achieve these goals for system transformation
1199SEIU leadership requested delegate nominees to join a new Brooklyn Safety Net Workers Council, which will ensure that all Brooklyn delegates and members are engaged and informed about healthcare system changes. The Council, which will consist of 16 delegates/members and union officers, will advocate for Brooklyn residents and create partnerships among hospital management, workers and communities. It will hold its first open meeting in March. The LMP will be supporting the Council for the first nine months to a year of its operation with facilitation and capacity building. “We have to be advocates for ourselves, patients and our communities,” said Veronica Turner, Senior Executive Vice President for 1199SEIU.
“I know we can work together as a delegate body. Through this meeting, I learned about the power that we together as delegates can bring to our community and our members,” said Mullin Davis, a patient care technician in the Maimonides Medical Center Emergency Room.
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