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Brooklyn Hospitals Will Close Without Federal Money, Mayor and Governor Say

 Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a press conference to discuss Brooklyn hospitals on Jan. 27, 2014.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a press conference to discuss Brooklyn hospitals on Jan. 27, 2014.
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Mayor's Office

NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that Brooklyn hospitals will close by the end of February without an influx of cash from the federal government.

The state submitted a Medicaid waiver request 18 months ago as a way to secure about $10 billion in funds from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Now the clock is ticking down on Long Island College Hospital, Interfaith Medical Center and Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, which are all in danger of closing if the federal government doesn't approve the funds, the two men said at an Albany press conference on Monday.

"We've been living, unfortunately, hand-to-mouth," de Blasio said. "We've waited a long time for fairness in New York State, and it's time for action."

State hospitals in Brooklyn cost upwards of $1 billion per year, and the federal funds, along with money from the state budget and private equity investment, would be enough to keep the hospitals alive, according to the governor.

But right now there isn't enough money in the state budget, and the governor cannot add the federal money to the budget unless it comes in by Feb. 20, or 30 days after his initial budget proposal, according to state law.

"February is the last period I can do a modification to our budget," Cuomo said. "It's not in our budget now. There are no funds to continue this. If we get a waiver, then I will do a modification."

In a letter addressed to the governor last week, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said the government is working with New York, providing technical assistance and feedback.

The department received New York's last request on Jan. 14, Sebelius said.

"As I believe you know, our teams have been making good progress towards an overall agreement," Sebelius said.

"We have begun drafting the terms of a potential agreement, which is a final step in the process, but one that requires careful and close attention as it outlines the specifics of the demonstration and the authorized use of funds."

Representatives from the department will meet with state officials this week to continue working on the issue, an HHS official said.

Cuomo and de Blasio spoke at a table in the executive chamber of the capitol building, above a banner that read "Protecting Brooklyn's Hospitals." The state Brooklyn delegation was in attendance, as the two executives described some of the trouble facing health care in the borough.

De Blasio made Brooklyn hospitals a centerpiece of his campaign last year, as he was arrested protesting to keep LICH open and attended rallies to save Bed-Stuy's Interfaith.

As the hospitals await word on their future, both LICH and Interfaith are in a state of disarray.

LICH is currently searching for an operator to take over the hospital, and supporters last week sent a letter to the state arguing that the selection process was invalid and needed to start over.

Lawyers for Interfaith have argued that without an influx of cash from the state, it will not be able to stay open past the end of the month.

Cuomo on Monday called the health care situation in Brooklyn "critical."

"Brooklyn, as a county, is bigger than many cities in this country, and the health care system in Brooklyn is really on the precipice," Cuomo said.

"It comes down to dollars and cents, and right now the funding is not there."