February 08, 2013

Saving SUNY Downstate would protect jobs, quality health care

Source:  NYSUT Media Relations

BROOKLYN, N.Y. February 8, 2013 - The 600,000-member New York State United Teachers called on the Assembly Friday to do whatever is necessary to protect SUNY Downstate from closure, saying the state-operated hospital is critical to meeting the health needs of Brooklyn's working families.

"SUNY Downstate - as well as the state's other publicly operated hospitals in Syracuse and on Long Island - fulfills a critical health care mission, providing medical services to working New Yorkers who are under-served by private hospitals," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "The state and SUNY need to make a financial commitment to these hospitals to ensure their survival."

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta, in testimony submitted to the Assembly Health Committee, said SUNY Downstate employs more than 8,000 faculty, professionals and other workers. The hospital's closure - or privatization - would deal an economic blow to Brooklyn, which is still reeling from the effects of the recession. In addition, he said, the hospital's closing would deny central Brooklyn residents - many of whom are poor - access to unique, life-saving health care services.

"Each day, thousands of Brooklyn residents depend on SUNY Downstate for medical care and specialized treatment. Many of these patients are uninsured or under-insured, and if the hospital is closed, they would have nowhere to turn," Pallotta said. He said that the job losses resulting from the hospital's closure would "devastate Brooklyn's already weak economy," noting, "Reducing employment in this economically distressed area is counterproductive and wrong."

Pallotta said SUNY Downstate - Brooklyn's fourth-largest employer - generates $1.3 billion annually for the state's economy, with more than half the hospital's workers living in the borough.

He also noted that SUNY Downstate is known nationally for its medical school and cutting-edge research. The medical school, he added, serves a diverse student population and produces more New York City physicians than any other medical education program. More than 80 percent of Downstate medical school graduates stay to practice in New York State.

The hospital's fiscal problems, he said, result from poor management and state budget cuts. In fact, he said, since 2008, state support to New York's public hospitals has been slashed by nearly 50 percent. The union said closing corporate loopholes and demanding that business pays its fair share in taxes would generate the revenue needed to keep SUNY Downstate and other public hospitals operating.

"The simple truth is that Downstate cannot carry out its critical public missions without increased state support," Pallotta said.

NYSUT is the state affiliate of United University Professions, which represents some 3,000 faculty and professional staff who work at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.