Guest speakers for the night included Borough President Eric Adams, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Assemblywoman Annette Robinson and Assemblyman Walter Mosley.
James outlined several of the issues facing Brooklyn hospitals, not the least of which is the staggering disparity between care levels in Manhattan and the outer boroughs.
“There are six beds for every 1,000 residents in the Borough of Manhattan as opposed to two beds per 1,000 in [Brooklyn],” James said. “Brooklyn has a significant number of residents who are uninsured and underinsured, who suffer from a number of chronic diseases. There is a lack of primary care providers.”
James added that while there is a lack of investments from the state, “We clearly need Medicaid waver money to save Interfaith, save Downstate, to save Woodhull.”
Adams said he is against closure of hospitals in Brooklyn.
“It’s amazing the thought of even attempting to close facilities with the off-the-chart data that shows, in all areas and indicators, that we have a healthcare crisis,” Adams said.
Brooklyn’s distressed hospitals have been working to attain federal Medicaid funding to bolster their budgets for years, and there is currently a deal for $8 million in the works. But now, more hospitals around New York State are vying for a piece of the aid, so it is possible local hospitals will receive smaller portions.
“Now we’re also seeing more hospitals throughout New York State trying to redefine themselves as distressed hospitals,” Mosley said. “The pool is starting to expand, or trying to expand.”
Even if the funding from Medicaid comes to Brooklyn’s hospitals intact, it won’t do much in terms of sustainability for the hospitals. Adams warned of a coming sea change in the way healthcare is budgeted, and encouraged Brooklyn caregivers to participate in the shift.
“It’s going to change, and what I am saying is let’s be a part of that change,” said Adams, explaining that while the situation is indeed dire in Brooklyn, it’s not much better in the rest of the city and state. “What we are going through in Brownsville, they are going through in South Jamaica and they’re going through in South Bronx. We’re all in this together.”