Tensions are running high at a bankrupt Brooklyn hospital championed by New York City's new mayor. Dozens of hospital workers at Interfaith Medical Center occupied part of the building Friday to protest the hospital's planned shut-down.
The occupation was triggered by an order that suspended ambulance service for several hours. Police reportedly had to be called to escort hospital CEO Patrick Sullivan from his office.
Sullivan, who has announced he will resign at the end of the month, said early Friday afternoon the hospital would not accept ambulances, an Interfaith spokeswoman said. The hospital's financial instability prompted the decision, she said. Interfaith's chief medical officer contacted the New York Fire Department hours later to reopen the emergency room, she said.
The hospital was notified last week by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York that Interfaith was in default on debt after it refused to follow through on an agreed-upon transfer of clinics to Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. It also operates with too few board members than required by its bylaws and its CEO is resigning, the default notice said. The refusal may cost Interfaith $3.5 million to operate through January and another $4 million for the transferred clinics, according to the default notice. "Simply put, Interfaith has made a bad situation only worse for its patients, the community it serves and its employees.
In response, the hospital said that trustees believed the transfer of the clinics was dependent on Interfaith's closure before a Jan. 26 deadline.
Mayor Bill de Blasio made the hospital's pending closure a campaign issue and has vowed to try and save Interfaith.
A spokesman for the mayor said the ambulance disruption was "disruptive and unnecessary."
The hospital, which entered bankruptcy
roughly a year ago saddled with nearly $200 million more in debts than assets, was scheduled to close Jan. 7, but remains open with a last-minute $3.5 million lifeline from the state to fund operations for a month. New York may deliver another cash infusion to keep doors open through early March. Interfaith has hemorrhaged millions on operations since entering bankruptcy court.
Its financial distress and possible closure has sparked public outcry from organized labor and politicians, including de Blasio during his campaign. The safety net hospital is in Brooklyn's predominantly African-American Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. One in three residents of the hospital's service area live in poverty, said Interfaith Medical Center's bankruptcy filings.