By Penny Mintz
Is Beth Israel Hospital going the way of St. Vincent’s (closed), Cabrini (closed), St. Vincent’s Midtown (closed), and Gouverneur (an out-patient center and nursing home)? Perhaps, but not if the Progressive Action for Lower Manhattan (PALM) has any say in the matter.
PALM, a local chapter of the statewide New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN), which was created almost immediately after Trump was elected president, focuses on issues of concern in Manhattan below 42nd Street. The very first issue in PALM’s sights was the threatened closing of the Beth Israel Hospital campus building on 1st Avenue at East 16th Street.
“My daughter was born in Beth Israel,” says Harvey Epstein, the head of PALM’s hospital-closure committee and a Democratic candidate for the New York State Assembly seat being vacated by Brian Kavanagh. Epstein worries about where the next generation of families will go if Beth Israel closes. “We need to stop the process of closing this facility and demand more for our community.”
Concern about the fate of the hospital arose after Mount Sinai, which bought Beth Israel in 2013, began shutting down one profitable hospital unit after another last June. Contrary to Mount Sinai’s promises to upgrade and modernize the 16th Street facility and double its emergency room capacity to accommodate the impact of the 2010 closing of St. Vincent’s by June 2013, the maternity, neonatal, pediatric intensive care, and adult cardiac surgery units all hit the dust.
At PALM’s monthly meeting on Tuesday night, November 21, 2017, members reaffirmed their determination that the essential services of a full hospital must be maintained in the community. The group’s immediate goal is to have Governor Cuomo see to it that the New York State Department of Health stop rubber-stamping the piecemeal closure of Beth Israel Hospital units without full review.
With these ends in mind, PALM organized a well-attended demonstration on September 24th. (See the October 2017 WestView article.) However, no one has any illusions that one rally will stop the closure. “That rally was a good beginning,” says PALM activist Gil Horowitz, “but it was just a beginning.”
Going forward, PALM will participate in the demonstration that NYPAN is already organizing in front of Cipriani Wall Street (55 Wall Street, between William and Hanover Streets) on December 14th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., when Governor Cuomo holds a fundraiser/celebration for his 60th birthday. No one from PALM or NYPAN expects to join the festivities inside at $1,000 per person, but they want the governor to be aware of a dissatisfied constituency outside.
Mindy Rosier, a PALM member and NYPAN board member, argued for monthly demonstrations in the community to raise awareness and make involvement convenient. “Monthly demonstrations,” Rosier said, “have a predictability that builds participation.” There were concerns about the manpower demands of monthly demonstrations. Nevertheless, starting in January, PALM intends to have a monthly presence on 16th Street and 1st Avenue. The specific day and hour will be determined at the next PALM meeting. The next PALM meeting will be held on December 19th or 20th at 6:30 p.m., depending on the availability of space at the Seafarers International House (123 East 15th Street, at Irving Place).
Contact Penny Mintz at firstname.lastname@example.org for the finalized date of the next PALM meeting.