With Closure Looming, Residents and Politicos Step Up Efforts to Save Beth Israel

East side politicians including NY State Senator Kristen Gonzalez, Assemblyman Harvey Espstein and City Council member Carlina Rivera, who represent districts surrounding Beth Israel Hospital, were joined by Congressman Jerry Nadler and west side politicians who called for NYS to halt Mount Sinai’s plans to close Beth Israel in July.

| 28 Mar 2024 | 08:16

”It’s an eight minute window,” said Samuel Joseph Kleinplatz, a heart attack survivor who was treated at Beth Israel and who joined local elected officials calling on NYS to halt plans by Mount Sinai to shut down the East Side hospital in had purchased ten years ago but now wants to shut down by July 12.

”Look around,” Kleinplatz said to a handful of people rallying against the planned closure just outside the hospital on E. 17th and First Ave. “One of you is going to die because you don’t have access to a hospital.”

He was joined by a wide number of political leaders including Assemblyman Harvey Epstein, whose daughter was born there, city council member Carlina Rivera whose district runs up through part of lower midtown that includes the hospital and Kristen Gonzalez, a progressive whose 59th Senate district stretches across parts of western Queens, northern Brooklyn and a sliver of lower Manhattan that includes Stuyvesant Town and the area around the hospital.

“You can’t say that you are in the business of saving lives, but that cost is too high,” said Gonzalez.

When Mount Sinai announced its decision last year to close Beth Israel by July, 2024, it said the hospital that the 799-bed hospital had purchased in 2014 had lost more than $1 billion over the past decade including over $100 million last year. Keeping it open could imperil health care in its other hospitals acrss the city, Mount Sinai claimed.

But the political leaders blasted the decision to close down the hospital which began in 1890 serving immigrant Jewish residents from the lower East Side who often were barred from admittance to other hospital due to religious discrimination. It eventually expanded into a highly regarded teaching hospital that served resident from the East Village, lower East Side, Chinatown, Gramercy Park and midtown. And moved to its present site at the corner of E. 16th and First Ave. in 1929. It once had a prominent school of nursing, but its residence quarters were sold When St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village closed, it began servicing residents from Chelsea, Greenwich Village, SOHO and the West Village. There is only one other general interest hospital downtown, a branch of New York Presbyterian.

”Closing down Mount Sinai Beth Israel will be devastating to this whole area leaving a vast gap in our health care for as many as 400,000 people,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “Bellevue and NYU are already stretched thin.

“We need a viable plan from New York State Health Department on Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Closure is not an acceptable option.”

Gonzalez blasted Mount Sinai for citing cost of running Beth Israel. “We need more beds, more investments and more health care access,” she said.

”You cannot buy a hospital and then abandon this community,” she said.

Assemblyman Harvey Epstein noted that his daughter was born there and he would turn to Beth Israel for emergency room care whenever needed over the years for his family. Just to north, he said “Bellevue is bursting at the seams at a time when we need more hopsital beds, not less.

NYS Senator Brian Kavanagh, who once represented the area before districts were redrawn pushing him to the west side, remembered fighting successfully to keep the hospital open in 201 j7, which meant it was there when the pandemic ravaged the country in 2020. “There is a process it has to go through,” he said of Mount Sinai’s plan to shut it down now because many of its beds have been going unutilized as the pandemic eased. “The process is broken,” he said.

”We are desperate for quality care for the hundreds of thousands of people who live downtown,” said Rivera. “We are worried as a community. We are scared. We need a level 1 trauma center.”

She added, “We owe it to the patients and the workers inside.” She said that what is happening at Beth Israel “is not just unjust, it is probably illegal.”

Politicians including downtown’s Chris Marte, and west siders also joined into the calls to stop the closure including council members Eric Bottcher Chelsea assembly member Tony Simone, NY State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and assemblywoman Deborah Glick.

“It is unacceptable to buy a hospital and then shut it down,” Glick said. “This hospital is being stripped bare of services. They can’t keep the flagship uptown and strip Beth Israel bare downtown,” she said.

Mark Hannay, director of New York Health Care for All, said five years ago he was in a serious bike accident and when EMT’s asked him where he wanted to go, he said, “Beth Israel.”

He said people should bring pressure to bear on Governor Hochul to find a way to keep the hospital open and find funds while the current budget deliberations are underway. “We’re calling on Governor Hochul to be a hero,” he said, “She can either be the hero of the defacto undertaker.

Thousands of protestors had marched from the hospital to Governor Hochul’s NYC office on March 22.

Hanny added, “It’s her decision, but she doesn’t have much time.”

So far, Beth Israel has not altered its plans to shut the 134-year-old hospital by July 12. If it closes, the only full service hospital below 23rd St will be a branch of New York Presbyterian Hospital.

”Our city, its most vulnerable residents, who are low income, elderly or suffering from an acute illness that can’t wait for an hour-long trip uptown, need this hospital and the service it provides,” Nadler said.