2013-08-23 / Columnists

Simon Says...

Commentary From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Lew M. Simon Lew M. Simon We’re so excited and electrified by all the great support we are getting throughout the district while knocking at doors. We want to remind everyone that Tuesday September 10th is Primary Day and I need your vote. We are looking for volunteers to go door to door giving out leaflets, greet voters at supermarkets and transit stations, and make phone calls. We still need donations to support our campaign. Call 718-945-1216 if you can help.

One of the biggest issues affecting our community as well as Queens and NYC is the closing of community hospitals. Through the years we have a proven track record of fighting for our hospital service. In 1999 when St. John’s Episcopal Hospital was facing bankruptcy and closure, we marched beside the Local 1199 workers and helped organize community support so that they could reorganize, stay open and grow.

When Peninsula Hospital was facing financial disaster in 2011 we marched with Local 1199 nurses and staff whose own health benefits were threatened. We demanded the removal of the management which was part of this failure. Peninsula remained in operation.

When the new administration had difficulty with the NYS Department of Health, we fought along with the staff and community residents, many of them former patients, who demanded that the NYS Department of Health allow Peninsula to continue to serve our community. When Peninsula was forced to close, we demanded that new operators be selected to run a state of the art community hospital.

Unfortunately Peninsula is closed and St. Johns is the only remaining hospital serving our community.

We have heard the cry for help from the staff at St. John’s. They told us that the management of St. John’s (an outside for profit management company called Pitts) was closing services, laying off workers and refusing to seek an affiliation with a strong hospital system that would support St. John’s in its role in providing basic local and emergency services. St. John’s has the only maternity services and its overcrowded emergency room is the only one available for miles around.

I have facilitated and moderated meetings for Local 1199 workers and the community with Steve Kramer, Executive Vice President of Local 1199. We helped to organize a march and rally in Far Rockaway from the shopping center on Mott Avenue to St. John’s which got city wide attention and brought city wide and Queens elected officials and candidates.

Steve Kramer told us that he has a letter of intent from North Shore LIJ of their interest in exploring a merger.

Years ago the NYS Berger Commission after studying the needs of communities all over New York State concluded that Rockaway should have one state of the art hospital. Until the funds were available Rockaway would have to get along with our two older hospitals. Now we are facing the risk of having none.

It is now time for Episcopal Bishop Lawrence Provenzano to meet with Michael J. Dowling, CEO of North Shore LIJ to discuss the necessary facts and arrangements.

Pitts Management, a Baton Rouge firm, is draining the remaining resources and not facilitating a solution. They should withdraw. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYS DOH must approve and support a survival plan.

I am extremely excited and proud to have received the endorsement and support of the 504 Democratic Club, the oldest Democratic club which fights for the rights of people with disabilities. In asking for their endorsement, I told them how we had successfully fought for a new entrance for the Rockaway Park Post Office so that disabled persons could enter without waiting for assistance. The 504 Club plays an important role in helping more of our citizens lead productive and happy lives.

We have just received the endorsement of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. We have worked with and support their efforts to keep our firehouses open and their trucks fully manned. They fully earn their health benefits and pensions and should never be made a scapegoat for financial problems.

We had an excellent fund raiser birthday party at the Irish Circle. Our local elected officials came to give their endorsement and enjoy the excellent food.

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