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Suit demands: Keep Victory open!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Three lawmakers have sued the state to demand that it keep the emergency room at Victory Memorial Hospital open, even if the rest of the medical center is forced to close down.

State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) put aside partisan bickering on Tuesday to file a lawsuit against the Department of Health that seeks to reverse a state decision to close the financially strapped hospital.

“We have no other choice but to pursue legal action to force the state to do the right thing for our community,” said Fossella.

The decision comes after the state rejected plans for SUNY Downstate Medical Center to take over emergency care services at the hospital, which has already started laying off workers in advance of an expected Feb. 1 closing date.

Fossella said that state officials are more interested in closing the hospital than allowing a responsible party to continue providing services.

The 243-bed Victory Memorial is one of the nine New York State hospitals that were recommended for closure earlier this year by the Berger Commission, which cited the hospital’s Nov. 2006 bankruptcy filing and “severe financial trouble” as the main reason for the need for closure.

“Short-term cash infusions will not adequately ameliorate the facility’s financial problems,” the report said, adding that the hospital had received $8 million in grants and partnership money just one year before the bankruptcy filing, and that “its reported medical/surgical volume has steadily and sharply declined. …├é┬áVictory can close as an inpatient facility without disruption to access to care.”

Despite the harsh prognosis, Victory backers fought on. The Downstate plan was billed as a new way to save Victory — or at least keep its ER going.

Golden (pictured on page 3 with his colleagues at Tuesday’s announcement of the lawsuit) called the rejection of the proposal irresponsible and dangerous. “Failure to approve an emergency room for this location will put the health and safety of all citizens at great risk,” he said.

Victory Memorial Hospital logs about 17,000 emergency visits annually. Without the emergency room, patients will be distributed among three neighboring, but overburdened, hospitals: Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park, Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park and Coney Island Hospital.

Gentile called the state’s decision to close Victory wrongheaded because critical minutes could be lost in emergency situations with longer trips to these hospitals.

“This legal maneuver is our effort to breathe life back into ER services at the hospital,” he said.

State Department of Health spokeswoman Clauda Hutton said, “We realize feelings are running high in the community, but all we are doing is implementing the Berger Commission [recommend­ations].”

She added that the “SUNY Downstate proposal was rejected because it did not comply with Berger.”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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