NYSUT and United University Professions, the statewide union's higher education affiliate at SUNY, are fighting to stave off a devastating double blow to health services and the economy in Brooklyn from a "restructuring" of SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
As NYSUT United went to press, the hospital said the possible restructuring would likely mean the loss of some jobs and services. As the unions note, any loss of services at the Medical Center's University Hospital in Flatbush could make it that much harder for thousands of Brooklyn residents to access desperately needed health care. More than half of the Medical Center's 8,000 employees live in Brooklyn, so any significant loss of jobs could hit an already challenged section of New York City very hard. At 10.4 percent, Kings County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
"Our members are asking the governor, SUNY Board of Trustees Chair H. Carl McCall and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to put Central Brooklyn residents first and to abandon this restructuring plan," said UUP President Phil Smith. "Our members at Downstate Medical Center are dedicated to improving and saving lives, and they are concerned about their patients. This fight is about the well-being of patients in need, and the economic life of a neighborhood in need."
NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi has called the effort to keep SUNY Downstate Medical Center strong and vital "one of the most critical fights that NYSUT and higher education have faced in decades."
Downstate is one of the state's three academic medical centers, and its College of Medicine graduates hundreds of doctors each year, many of them physicians of color. In turn, more than 80 percent of those graduates stay in New York and continue to provide services to patients in New York City and especially in Kings County. This is not the first threat against Downstate Medical Center that NYSUT and UUP have fought back; last fall, the state's Medicaid Redesign Team recommended moving inpatient services from University Hospital to the Medical Center's Long Island College Hospital.
NYSUT members have sent hundreds of letters to SUNY officials and lawmakers asking that the restructuring not take place. To send a letter and for more information, go to the UUP website at www.uupinfo.org.