A bankruptcy judge ordered those who care about the fate of Interfaith Medical Center to go into mediation, giving the hospital a possible shot at a new life.
Bankruptcy Judge Carla Craig, who has entertained arguments from all sides of the battle over the state’s plan to close the Bedford-Stuyvesant medical center, on Wednesday ordered the hospital’s management, two unions, and the state to all sit down and come up with a plan they can agree on. The move takes the court temporarily off the hook for deciding what will become of the hospital that the state and hospital management originally wanted to close this month before they were held up by judicial delays and opposition by staffers. The management in the middle applauded the latest decision.
“This is really very good news,” said Interfaith Hospital spokeswoman Melissa Krantz. “Hopefully, we can come up with a plan that everyone is happy about and the hospital can have a future.”
The hospital on Atlantic Avenue between Albany and Troy avenues had been set to close in mid-November because it is saddled with debt and hemorrhaging over $1 million per month.
The stakeholders have been to bankruptcy court several times over the past three months to hammer out a closure plan, but Craig repeatedly refused to sign off on one. The hospital’s executives are confident they and the other stakeholders can hash something out.
“Once we get everyone sitting together, I think we will be able to come up with something,” said Krantz.
Interfaith workers are eager to get talking, too.
“We are looking forward to contributing to the conversation with the goal of ensuring that any plan for the future of Interfaith takes the needs of the community into account,” said Ari Moma, a psychiatric nurse at the hospital and an elected leader of the New York State Nurses Association.
If the hospital closes, the state would have to identify replacement health care providers for the 300,000 residents who go to Interfaith annually, and to find new places for the hospital’s 1,544 employees to work.
Hospital administrators have said they tried to save the hospital by cutting about $30 million in annual expenses between 2010 and 2012, but the state demanded earlier this summer that it close for good.
So far, no date has been set for a first mediation meeting.