This month, NYSNA nurses, 1199SEIU caregivers and the doctors of the Committee of Interns and Residents were celebrated at a Women’s History Month Breakfast to honor the work of the women who saved Interfaith Medical Center.
NYSNA nurses have worked tirelessly for the past two years to protect healthcare for Brooklyn patients. In Central Brooklyn, a medically underserved area with high rates of preventable illnesses and with some of the highest infant mortality rates in all of New York, RNs united with fellow union members, elected leaders, and the community to keep Interfaith Medical Center open for care. Just a couple of years ago, Interfaith was on the chopping block of Brooklyn hospitals facing imminent closure. Now, due to the efforts of the coalition spearheaded by NYSNA nurses, the hospital has come out of bankruptcy.
First African American woman named CEO of a New York Hospital
The Coalition to Transform Interfaith also celebrated the historic appointment of Interfaith’s new President and CEO, LaRay Brown, who is the first African American woman to lead a New York hospital. For many years, Ms. Brown has worked productively with NYSNA nurses at New York City Health + Hospitals, where she served most recently as Senior Vice President for Corporate Planning, Community Health and Intergovernmental Relations and helped ensure that nurses could provide quality care in our public safety-net hospitals.
“Healthcare is a social justice issue,” said Ms. Brown. “I aspire for us to be the best provider in our community and I’m committed to not just surviving but thriving.”
Elected leaders join the struggle
Central Brooklyn elected leaders attended the March 11 breakfast and thanked NYSNA nurses and their union colleagues for organizing day and night to make sure that Interfaith could survive.
“I want to let you know how much I appreciate the work of NYSNA and 1199,” said U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. “To draw from the brilliant urban philosopher Drake, ‘We started from the bottom and now we’re here.’ Under the leadership of LaRay Brown and in partnership with NYSNA and 1199, the best is yet to come for Interfaith Medical Center.”
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James rallied with NYSNA nurses over the course of many months in the snow, rain, and hail to protect Interfaith.
“I heard from 1199 and NYSNA every single day. They demanded that this hospital stay open,” said Public Advocate James. Pointing to the 1199SEIU and NYSNA delegates being honored at the breakfast, she added, “Now is the time to be like them and keep working to make this hospital great.”
NYSNA receives accolades
NYSNA honorees included Interfaith Medical Center RNs Christine Toomer, Sharon Bedford, Charmayne Sadler-Walker, and Julannah Gregory; Cheryl Powell, RN, Wyckoff Medical Center; and NYSNA staff member Eliza Carboni and retired NYSNA staff member Carol Pittman.
NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo, RN, and LaRay Brown were both honored with bouquets of flowers to thank them for their leadership. “This women’s history month, let’s acknowledge the incredible women that stood up and stood together to keep this hospital open for care,” said Ms. Furillo. “The unity that our union had, the unity that we built within the labor movement, with 1199 and the Committee of Interns and Residents, the unity with the community – that’s what saved our hospital. With that kind of power, we can always prevail.”
Ms. Furillo added, “In our new CEO, LaRay Brown, we have an incredible advocate for workers and for patients. In our years of working with Ms. Brown we have had the common mission of uniting to provide the very best care to our community.”
Sharon Bedford, RN, one of the NYSNA nurse leaders honored at the event, thinks that the future for Interfaith Medical Center looks bright. “Patients are coming and we’re staying open for care. Our coalition has saved Interfaith and now we’re working together to make sure our hospital thrives.”