The Brooklyn Hospital Center is slated to receive a much-needed $9.2 million cash infusion to renovate its emergency department thanks to the efforts of New York’s federal elected officials.
Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, alongside U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, visited the borough’s oldest hospital on Sunday morning to announce that the recently-passed federal spending bill included a whopping $9.2 million for the 177-year-old Fort Greene medical center. The money will be used to finish the ongoing expansion of the hospital’s emergency department.
“The Brooklyn Hospital Center serves the least, the lost and the left behind, the poor, the sick and the afflicted, and do a phenomenal job,” said Jeffries, who, it was noted later, was born at the hospital. “We’re so thankful for them and the healthcare heroes who are there for our community. I was proud to work with Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to deliver $9.2 million in federal funds for The Brooklyn Hospital Center for the Emergency Department Modernization Project to help them continue their vital work.”
With a number of facilities including a dialysis center, AIDS treatment center, and neighborhood-based Family Health Centers, The Brooklyn Hospital Center has become a cornerstone of health care in northern Brooklyn. It’s also one of a dwindling number of independent hospitals, not owned by the government or by a larger healthcare chain, and about 80 percent of the hospital’s patients use government insurance like Medicaid and Medicare.
The hospital has been struggling financially for years, and the planned overhaul of the emergency department is long overdue — the hospital received a $25 million grant from the state to modernize their emergency facilities in 2017, and construction began two years later. Gary Terrinoni, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said at the time that the emergency room was built to handle just 43,000 visits per year, but was in fact treating upwards of 70,000 people per year, with the population of the neighborhood only expected to increase.
In 2020, the hospital announced plans for a large-scale expansion and renovation, including a new maternity ward, cancer center, and an expanded emergency department. The pandemic exacerbated the hospital’s monetary woes and delayed that plan, but, as of last spring, hospital leadership still intended to see the project through.
With the new influx of cash, the Emergency Department Modernization Project will build new exam and treatment rooms, new waiting rooms, and space for services like radiology and CT scan rooms.
“We are a safety net hospital, so I think the monies that we’re getting, $9.2 [million], is just amazing, we can’t believe it,” Terrinoni said at Sunday’s press conference. “But we need monies to finish the emergency department, we need so many things to have done here that this $9.2 million is really well received.”
He “couldn’t say enough” in praise of Schumer, Gillibrand, and Jeffries, Terrinoni continued, and he’s grateful to have them fighting for the hospital and its patients.
Lizanna Fontaine, chair of the hospital’s board, said funding ensures the hospital can “continue our work of knowing and partnering with this community to promote and ensure its health.” The future of the facility is bright thanks to the three pols, she added.
“In the tragedy that was the pandemic, there was a silver lining,” Fontaine said. “It allowed us to show ourselves what we were capable of, and to show the community and the world at large … we watched with awe and pride as our doctors and nurses stepped up to the challenge of a lifetime.”
The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s fight against COVID was chronicled by The New York Times in the early days of the pandemic, when nearly half of the hospital’s patients had COVID and the hospital was struggling to increase their capacity as the city was inundated with the virus. Days before the city shut down, the hospital erected a pre-screening tent in front of their emergency room on Ashland Place, examining potential COVID patients to determine whether or not they needed emergency care in an effort to slow infections.
“Brooklyn residents deserve access to a world-class health care system, and I am proud of the investments we are making to improve the services of The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s Emergency Department,” Gillibrand said. “The pandemic tested the full capabilities of our health care system, and this funding will go a long way toward providing our most vulnerable communities access to the best, highest quality medical care.”