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Saying “There Were Promises Broken,” Nurses ‘Push Back On Closing Of Psychiatric Unit’ At Brooklyn’s Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center

Published Tuesday, October 19, 2021
by NYSNA News
Saying “There Were Promises Broken,” Nurses ‘Push Back On Closing Of Psychiatric Unit’ At Brooklyn’s Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center

(BROOKLYN, NEW YORK) - The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) is outraged and organizing in response to the recent announcement that the Adult/Geriatric Psychiatric Unit at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center (KJMC) is slated to close next month.

The Kingsbrook Jewish Adult/Geriatric Psychiatric Unit was a core part of the One Brooklyn Health project, opened in 2016 to meet community health care needs.

The facility is critically important for geriatric psychiatric care, having served elderly patients for 20 years and drawing patients from nursing homes in Queens and the Rockaways, as well as from Upstate New York, NYSNA Officials said.

The continuity of geriatric psychiatric care was explicitly promised in the One Brooklyn Health plan, said NYSNA Nurses, who charge One Brooklyn is now going back on their word.

“When One Brooklyn was founded, this psychiatric unit was among those listed in the agreement.  That’s because it is a vital Geriatric Psychiatric Care Unit and was to remain.  What we’re being told now constitutes a clear broken promise and a breach of a guarantee of the public’s health,” said Registered Nurse (RN) Vivienne Phillips, who serves as Chair of NYSNA’s Executive Committee at KJMC.

The closing comes in the aftermath of a shocking number of nursing home patient deaths in New York City during the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic.

Black and Brown communities would be adversely affected by the closing, in particular.

Fully 65% of psychiatric discharges at Kingsbrook Jewish were among Patients of Color, according to the most recent data.

The closing exacerbates already sharp disparities in care prior to and during the COVID-19 Pandemic among Black and Brown New Yorkers.

Overall, inpatient mental health services have precipitously declined in Metro New York City during the pandemic, with closures at New York Presbyterian-Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, to NY-P’s Allen Hospital on Washington Heights, and at Syosset Hospital/Northwell Health on Long Island. 

The burden of closings often falls on safety net hospitals, but when safety nets like Kingsbrook Jewish close inpatient units, patients most in need are too often stranded without care, NYSNA Representatives said.

“The Psych Unit is very necessary.  Not only do we serve the community, but patients from around the city and Upstate are sent here for treatment.  The geriatric psych offered in the unit provides very specialized care for the elderly with serious psychiatric illnesses.  Those caring for the elderly - whether at home or in a nursing home - understand what’s at stake.  We are committed to our patients and will do whatever it takes to keep the unit open,” RN and NYSNA Member Salina Flores said.

One Brooklyn Health claims the closing is a result of Psychiatrists leaving the unit and that their replacements were needed to keep the unit open.

NYSNA, public health experts and community advocates are offering to help locate qualified Psychiatrists to fill this void.

NYSNA, which represents more than 42,000 Members in New York State, is New York’s largest Union and Professional Association for RNs.

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