Rockaway Is Bleeding
Efforts to reopen Peninsula Hospital appear to be ineffective. Laid off workers are looking for new jobs. Some may return to their country of birth. Doctors are transferring their offices to other communities. Attempts to remove expensive equipment may have been made.
Rockaway is a high medical needs community. With 22 nursing homes or rehab facilities, large senior citizen buildings, and long distances to facilities in Brooklyn and Queens, the permanent closing of Peninsula Hospital is a health crisis that will impact on every Rockaway family when your time comes.
Many of the hospital employees have fought for their hospital and jobs by writing letters, carrying picket signs and marching outside the office of the New York State Department of Health. Only a handful of local residents have joined these protests. In the long run we will be the victims. If we don’t fight for ourselves, who will fight for us?
Our local elected officials have been ineffective due to diminished influence, lack of seniority or lack of effort. It is time that every concerned resident take action now.
Contact Governor Andrew Cuomo. He brought the contending parties together to achieve an on time budget, pass gay marriage and a flawed reapportionment. Surely he can bring all parties together to reopen the hospital. The Governor’s Albany office can be reached at 518-474-8390. E-mail can be put on the governor’s website. The governor’s New York City office number is 212-681-4580.
If there was any mishandling of hospital funds during the past few years it probably violated state law. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has the obligation to investigate any credible information concerning misuse of hospital funds. The Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau can be reached at 1-800-428-9071. Lois Booker Williams is the Assistant Attorney General at the Brooklyn (Queens) office at 718-722-3949. Under state law whistle blowers receive some of the recovered funds.
Most hospital workers are members of Local 1199 SEIU. This union has a long, proud reputation of fighting for underpaid and unappreciated workers. We know that unions are a force to protect their members and ordinary Americans even if Local 1199 officials sold out their members at Peninsula because they decided it was easier to close the hospital and get a share of the proceeds of bankruptcy to reimburse their Welfare Fund than to fight for the jobs of their members and the health care of the community they served.
Mary Kay Henry is the national president of the SEIU. Before being elected president unanimously in 2010, she was the chief health care strategist of the union. She is one of the leading voices for an improved national health care policy. Surely she should support maintaining local health care in Rockaway. The national union can be reached at SEIU.org and at 1800 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington DC 20036.
Local 1199 administration can be reached at 212-261-2273. George Gresham is the local president.
If you know something, say something. Think of how hard you would work if a family member needed an ambulance or a trip to the emergency room and none was available. Keep calling until you get a positive answer. Soon it may be too late.