Brooklynites and various community leaders gathered for an annual town hall at Maimonides Medical Center on June 20, where they hailed the institution for providing outstanding care, and called for adequate funding from the state government.
Maimonides President and CEO Ken Gibbs spoke at the Borough Park gathering, highlighting the medical center’s place as the largest healthcare provider in Brooklyn, and their deep connections with the diverse community they serve.
“For every one of us at Maimonides, we really treasure the fact that we have such a diverse array of communities but that means we have to work hard to stay connected,” Gibbs told Brooklyn Paper.
And the community recognized that work.
Grisel Amador, executive director at United Senior Citizenships of Sunset Park, spoke about the excellent care that local senior citizens receive at Maimonides.
“I don’t have any questions because thank God we already have the answer. That is how excellent the relationship with the staff is,” Amador said.
Beyond caring for older Brooklynites, Amador said, the medical center also ensures that every New Yorker feels welcome, and knows that they’re in good hands, with proactive measures — such as providing literature on nutrition and offering informative classes, along with utilizing Spanish speaking healthcare professionals at the center.
“The hospital is always checking what we need, what the community needs in order to provide for the community,” Amador gushed.
In addition to their stellar care, the medical center has taken great steps in improving their services elsewhere — expanding their emergency services, bettering their dining and food care, improving air-conditioning that brings more comfort, and developing an all-in-one app for patients to access necessities at their fingertips.
Pushing for funding
Despite developing a well-earned reputation for providing extraordinary care for patients, Maimonides, like many other hospitals, has financially suffered from a confluence of different factors — namely the pandemic, rising labor costs, and the confounding way hospitals are reimbursed for their care.
“Tonight is an opportunity for us to spend time with leaders in the different communities and talk about the state of the industry [and] where we are in terms of providing care, and to talk about the combination of incredible accomplishments and very challenging times,” Gibbs said.
The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on every medical provider, with Maimonides, located at the cross-section of many of the country’s hardest-hit communities, getting particularly distressed.
At the same time, labor costs for hospitals have increased more than two-fold.
Making matters worse, safety-net hospitals, like Maimonides, serve many patients who are uninsured, or are insured by programs like Medicaid and Medicare. That has long been a point of pride for Maimonides, as they are the premier healthcare provider for communities that need it most — but also means that they lack some of the resources as large health systems serving wealthier communities.
That has led many community members and hospital leaders to urge state leadership to increase their funding, so they can continue providing their unique care for residents of Brooklyn and beyond.
A particular sticking point is the issue of Medicaid reimbursements.
As of last year, Medicaid only reimbursed hospitals 61 cents for every dollar they spend on patient care, and Medicare reimbursements are similarly low, according to the New York Safety Net Hospital Coalition.
Community leaders, as a result, have pushed Albany lawmakers to close the Medicaid and Medicare gaps, ensuring that the valuable services places like Maimonides provide can continue — and hospitals won’t keep actively losing money every time they care for patients.
Funding seemed to strike a cord with attendees, as one leader from the Arab American Association of New York brought a letter addressed to Gov. Kathy Hochul, petitioning for more state aid.
The letter circulated the room, gaining signatures from many of the community leaders. In the letter, the signatories note the irreplaceable nature of Maimonides care.
“Maimonides is an indispensable part of the fabric of our communities,” the letter reads. “It provides culturally-competent care for an incredibly diverse population, serves as an economic anchor, and is a key partner for so many other institutions that serve Brooklynites.”
“The healthcare funding system, in which hospitals are paid vastly different amounts for the same service based on a patient’s insurance, has pushed safety net hospitals like Maimonides to an untenable point.”
Instead of letting the situation continue, the Governor and other Albany leaders must take swift action to fund safety-net hospitals.
“We believe strongly that to truly address health equity and ensure quality care for all residents in our communities, safety net hospitals like Maimonides must be properly resourced,” the letter reads. “Failure to do so will jeopardize New Yorkers’ access to quality health care.”
Maimonides Medical Center is backed by a diverse coalition of support, representing various parts of the community that would be affected. A recent letter to the governor, advocating for the center, was signed by a broad range of supporters. Unions, including the New York City Central Labor Council and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), expressed their support. Several community-led organizations also joined the supportive action, including the Arab American Association of New York, the Bangladeshi-American Friendship Society of New York, the Chinese-American Planning Council, St. Athanasius – St. Dominic RC Church, the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, CAIPA, Justicia sin Limites, and the United Senior Center of Sunset Park. Local leadership, encompassing the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Community Board 12, and the United States Army Garrison Fort Hamilton, is also a part of this diverse backing.