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Know Your Rights
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

Tough Summer for Wyckoff Heights Hospital

Threats of closure, expensive renovations, angry neighbors pressure the facility.

It has been a summer to forget for the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.

The Bushwick hospital and several other private hospitals are in the crosshairs of the Cuomo administration, as his Medicaid Redesign Team looks to cut rising Medicaid costs in the state.

State officials have already indicated that Brooklyn may have too many hospital beds and that patients would be better served using less expensive outpatient clinics.

But scores of community members and public officials rallied against the closures at a state health department-led hearing in lower Manhattan in late July.

Members of the Bushwick-based Make the Road New York, Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and other groups throughout Brooklyn and Queens echoed a similar concern — don’t close a hospital that serves two boroughs.

Assemblyman Vito Lopez told the New York Times that it was unfair to close hospitals in Brooklyn “if there’s three hospitals within three blocks in Manhattan.”

But Wyckoff CEO Rajiv Garg said the hospital is in “no danger of closing.” The task force is supposed to report its findings on Nov. 1.

“Hospitals will need to be repurposed in order to make them more stable,” said Garg, at a men’s health conference in Bushwick last month. “Health care reform has influence on health care delivery.”

It may take more than health care reform to fix Brooklyn’s hospitals.

The Medicaid task force found that one-third of the borough’s medical centers bring in enough income to pay for new equipment and maintenance of aging buildings. And another third’s liabilities are larger than its assets, according to a Crain’s article.

And a state study showed that Bushwick residents rely on emergency room care more than other Brooklyn residents — 34 percent of Bushwick residents made at least one visit to the ER in 2008 compared with 17 percent of residents in Southwest Brooklyn.

Long wait times in Bushwick’s emergency rooms is nothing new to residents, though Wyckoff spent $1.7 million to expand its ER within the past two years to make it more efficient.

But many patients are still using the emergency room for regular aches and pains due to limited health insurance and the lack of primary care physicians in the neighborhood.

The hospital expects to continue to improve its facilities, including the replacement of its air conditioning units — but renovations have not gone smoothly.

Neighbors have complained ferociously about the hospital’s noisy and noisome generator, which has been powering an external chiller unit on Stockhom Street since June.

The hospital moved the generator to a parking lot off St. Nicholas Avenue and told residents that both units would go offline in early September.

But Garg recently acknowledged that the renovations were behind schedule and the unit could be moved later this month.

“As soon as chilled water starts running, it will be shut off,” said Garg.

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