Interfaith CEO Resigns as Hundreds Rally to Save Hospital

By Paul DeBenedetto on June 27, 2013 8:54am 

Slideshow
 Former Interfaith President Luis Hernandez was replaced by current C.O.O. and Vice President Patrick J. Sullivan.
Hundreds of protestors rallied in Bed-Stuy to support Interfaith Hospital
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — The president and CEO of Interfaith Medical Center has resigned amidst layoffs, bankruptcy troubles and the possibility that the beleagured hospital could soon close, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The resignation of Luis Hernandez was announced by District Leader Robert Cornegy at a Bedford-Stuyvesant rally to save the troubled institution on Tuesday.

Cornegy, who had come directly from a community advisory board meeting, told a crowd of supporters that Hernandez's last day was on Friday.

"They said that a lot of the things that happened with Interfaith were due to fiscal mismanagement," Cornegy told a room of supporters. "I'm here to tell you tonight that because of pressure from [the community] that the president and CEO of Interfaith is no longer in place."

A hospital spokeswoman on Wednesday confirmed that current Interfaith chief operating officer Patrick J. Sullivan would take over as president.

Troubles at Interfaith began in 2010, when the state reduced Medicaid reimbursments. This created financial problems for the hospital, where hospital officials say more than 60 percent of patients are dependent on Medicaid.

In December of last year, the hospital filed for bankruptcy protection, and in February agreed to merge with bankrupt Brooklyn Hospital in a deal that would grant almost full control of Interfaith over to Brooklyn Hospital.

If the merger is completed, Brooklyn Hospital would have the power to choose new management, create a board of trustees consisting of 60 percent Brooklyn Hospital members and come up with "new, reduced and reconfigured services at New [Interfaith,]" according to the agreement.

But that merger recently came to a standstill, according to reports. Court documents filed earlier this month show "there has not been any further movement on the merger," due in part to a lack of funds from Albany needed to complete an investigation into Interfaith's finances.

If the merger is not completed, the hospital, which recently went through a round of layoffs, only has enough money to stay open until July, according to Crain's New York Business.

On Tuesday, hundreds of healthcare workers and Bed-Stuy residents organized by the National Action Network marched from Interfaith to King Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church, where they crammed into a hot, crowded room while speakers talked about saving the beleagured facility.

Members of the 1199 SEIU healthcare workers union and the New York State Nurses Association were joined by local and city-wide politicians, including mayoral candidates John Liu and Bill de Blasio, N.A.N Brooklyn chapter president and city council candidate Kirsten John Foy and activist Al Sharpton, among others.

The rally was just the first in a series of weekly, Tuesday-night rallies in Bed-Stuy, Sharpton said. He also criticized Albany for pushing to build casinos in New York while closing state hospitals like Interfaith, calling the move "irresponsible."

"They're opening up casinos," Sharpton said to the standing-room-only crowd. "We don't need crap games, we need hospitals."

Nurses and doctors on hand feared the hospital's closing, saying it would make way for private hospitals that put profit before healthcare.

"As much as they have been gentrifying, there are still low-income people living in these neighborhoods," said Linda O'Neil, a nurse at similarly-troubled Long Island College Hospital that showed up to the rally in a show of solidarity.

"They can not be forgotten."

The hospital serves parts of central Brooklyn, including Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, where a high number of residents suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, according to Health Department surveys.

Roland Purcell, a surgeon at Interfaith, said that as the primary hospital serving the low-income area, Interfaith's closing would leave a gaping hole.

"It will be catastrophic," Purcell said. "What will be developing here if the hospital closes would be equivalent to a healthcare wasteland."

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