BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A proposal to restructure four struggling Brooklyn hospitals to form a unified health care system has won the approval of community members.
Elected officials, central Brooklyn residents and patients and employees of Interfaith Medical Center gathered at the Atlantic Avenue hospital Wednesday to hear suggestions for integrating the hospital into a new network.
A feasibility study commissioned by the state’s Department of Health suggests the restructuring of Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center to function under a unified system.
The hospitals currently operate independently and were identified as undergoing a “decade or more of financial and organizational trauma,” according to Jeffrey Kraut, executive vice president of strategy and analytics at Northwell Health, the group that conducted the study.
Among the changes, the hospitals would have one board overseeing them and share resources.
Interfaith would re-open its behavioral health unit and expand its emergency department as well as ambulatory care facilities.
The recommendations garnered the support of community stakeholders, who said they were hopeful for the chance to improve Interfaith, a hospital that emerged from bankruptcy in 2014.
“We were struggling and marching for many, many years before we got to this place,” said former Assemblywoman Annette Robinson.
“We have the opportunity to get something done, I like the concept of what we have to do.
“We have an opportunity to do something great, to revitalize the health care system within the central Brooklyn community and work in partnership with others. I think this can be a good thing for us.”
Under the proposal more than 800 new jobs will be created, according to the study, and more than 100 health providers would be recruited.
Councilman Robert Cornegy said the network could serve as an “economic driver” for the communities it serves as the state looks to allocate $700 million for the transformation.
Local resident Lynette Lewis-Rogers said she wanted Interfaith to remain a “full-service” center and stressed the importance of keeping it a “community hospital."
Under the recommendations, 36 new facilities would be created throughout central and north Brooklyn to provide urgent care, primary care and specialty services, according to the study.
It would provide a solution to what some people described as “health care deserts” where residents said they are without access to physicians or pharmacies, Kraut said.
The study was drafted with the help of the Coalition to Transform Interfaith, an advocacy group for the hospital.
Members who spoke in favor of the recommendations on Wednesday sought a few changes.
“I think this plan is really exciting and it’s wonderful, but it’s missing a very important component,” said Judy Wessler, a member of the group.
“Having capital dollars is great but when you build a building, you need money to operate it, and that’s a very serious missing piece from all of these places.”
Other members, like Roger Green, said that more “local self-governance” was necessary.
“We need to have also a process in which the local community can be involved in the process of informing how the health care delivery system is provided,” Green said, adding that additional resources would be needed to implement the state’s suggestions.
“We think that we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
Participating hospitals will need to apply jointly to a request for funding from the state for the $700 million in funding.
Changes would take at least between five to seven years, Kraut said.
“There’s going to be a lot of monies that are required and it’s quite likely going to continue beyond the five years,” he said.
“And it’s quite likely that the $700 million — which ...is a phenomenal start — may be insufficient to finish the job.”
“The state, I think, recognizes the capital needs of health care institutions and there have been continuous programs available to invest capital dollars. And I believe that will continue well beyond the horizon that we’re maybe looking in this study.”