SUNY Downstate's financial woes should not lead to more cuts in staff and services, said leading Brooklyn politicians, union representatives and clergy at a Borough Hall rally Thursday morning.
Over 400 layoff notices have been issued to employees of SUNY Downstate within the past month, following the 150 laid off from Long Island College Hospital in July. And over 1,000 more are expected by the coalition of politicians, union leaders and clergy who collected over 10,000 signatures in protest.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz lead off the speakers at Thursday's rally, saying that SUNY Downstate's role symbolizes the country's commitment to human rights and equality.
"All men and women should have equal opportunities, not just in employment and education, but when it comes to healthcare as well," he said.
All citizens deserve the right to the best health care possible, regardless of their income level.
"Let's send a message lound and clear — no more layoffs, and no disruptions of medical services."
State Sen. Daniel Squadron said, "We need SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn. We need what it provides to all of Brooklyn, and to all of New York City."
"(It's) not just one hospital, it's not just two hospitals. It's Brooklyn's only academic medical center. It's New York City's only state medical college. It is a place where individuals who otherwise wouldn't have the chance to enter medicine, wouldn't have the chance to practice early in their careers, are given that chance."
"It is the access point and the ladder up for an entire generation of medical professionals that we must serve."
Nevine Alleyne, a lab technician in the hematology department, said, "I have been employed at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center for the past eight years. I am truly saddened by the situation that Downstate has put me and hundreds of my coworkers in. And by the threat of more layoffs to come."
"I'm worried about my livelihood and indeed my future. I don't know how I'll be able to provide for my family, pay my bills, put food on my table, as I'm the only member of my family that's employed."
"I'm concerned for those of us who have chronic ailments, or have other family members who rely on them for monetary support."
"Myself, I don't want government subsidies. I want to work, earn my keep, pay my taxes, take care of my family. And I think I can safely say that my coworkers all feel the same way."
"So I appeal to you, Governor Cuomo, please rescind the hundreds of letters that were sent out, and stop future layoffs."
Pastor Gilford Monrose, president of the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, said, "This morning, we as the faith community want to raise our collective voices to really look at those we consider the poor among us. We know that in the (political) campaigns, whether you're Democrat or Republican, the word 'poor' is left out of the discourse."
"So the collective voices of the clergy that stand with me today are saying that closing down Downstate is taking the basic right of the poor, the working poor, not only the middle class, taking it out from under those individuals. And leaving them with no choice but to seek another alternative, that we don't know how that would turn out."
SUNY Downstate responded to the rally with the following statement.
SUNY Downstate has been working on a financial transformation for its campus and its University Hospital of Brooklyn and Long Island College Hospital. Downstate's hospitals, like many hospitals, have been subject to recent financial stress owing to declining reimbursement. We are working to align revenue and expenditures, which unfortunately has necessitated a reduction in workforce. We remain committed to maintaining high quality clinical services and to ensuring that healthcare education is preserved for the people of Brooklyn.