Group Delivers 30,000 Petitions Calling for Change in Maimonides Leadership

By Reuvain Borchardt

Save Maimonides co-chairman Mendy Reiner speaking at a press conference in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday, before the group submitted 30,00 petitions to the state Department of Health seeking a change in leadership at Maimonides Medical Center. (Reuvain Borchardt/Hamodia)

NEW YORK — The Save Maimonides group delivered 30,000 petitions calling on the state Department of Health to force a change in leadership at Maimonides Medical Center, which the group says is necessary because the hospital is “failing,” but which Maimonides called a “stunt to spread misleading information.”

“Maimonides hospital is failing us and failing the entire community,” Mendy Reiner, co-chairman of the Save Maimonides group, which is seeking a change in hospital leadership, said at a press conference Tuesday outside DoH headquarters in Lower Manhattan. “This is not a healthy hospital. It wasn’t always this way. And it does not have to be this way. We deserve a safe and reliable hospital. And we can have that if the Department of Health forces a change in leadership.”

Maimonides admittedly is facing financial hardship, losing $145 million last year, and has recently had to rely on government funding to make ends meet.  Patients commonly complain of long wait times and understaffing, and the hospital is ranked last in the state in patient satisfaction according to DoH. Save Maimonides, a recently formed group of community activists, says the problems are attributable to mismanagement by hospital leadership led by CEO Ken Gibbs. The hospital says its problems are largely attributable to low reimbursement rates by Medicaid, which a large portion of their patients use.

At the press conference Tuesday, Judy Mann, a 26-year-old Flatbush mother of three, told how she brought her 10-day-old baby who “was experiencing this very weird green vomit” to Maimonides in May, and alleged that a misdiagnosis by the hospital nearly killed the child.

Mann says it took approximately 90 minutes for the hospital to give her baby an ultrasound and take x-rays, then another two-and-a-half to three hours until a doctor came to discuss the results —all while she, holding her baby, had to rotate with her middle-aged mother as to who would sit in the one available chair in the emergency room. She said that it was only after she continuously pushing the staff to bring the results that “a doctor came, looked at him for two minutes and said, ‘He’s fine; the results came back fine, you can go home.’” But when the vomiting continued, she called her pediatrician the next morning, who instructed her to take the child to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he had been born.

“Within 30 minutes of getting [to Mount Sinai], all I did was tell them the baby’s symptoms, and we were sitting in an [operating room],” Mann says. According to Mann, Mount Sinai doctors performed emergency surgery on the baby for instentinal malrotation  — and a  doctor told her that if another hour had passed, the baby “would not have made it.”

“Maybe if [Maimonides] were more staffed, or maybe if they took the time to care about each patient, not just VIP patients, the outcome would have been different and we would have gotten done the surgery that night instead of waiting 12 hours to get back to the hospital. So hopefully there will be some change in this hospital,” said Mann. “It is our community hospital. We want a hospital to rely on, not a hospital that we would have to drive an hour, an hour-and-a-half to [in Manhattan].”

Jimmy Li, a co-Chairman of Save Maimonides and activist in the Asian community of Sunset Park. (Reuvain Borchardt/Hamodia)

Save Maimonides collected the 30,000 petition signatures in person on the streets of Brooklyn, as well as online, after holding an event in Boro park’s Ateres Chaya hall last August announcing the petition drive.

The main petition calls on DoH “to conduct a thorough investigation into Maimonides Medical Center and conduct independent oversight over Maimonides.” A separate, multilingual petition circulated in Sunset Park’s Asian community calls for “an independent state commission that will provide oversight at Maimonides Medical Center.”

In a statement to Hamodia on Tuesday following the Save Maimonides press conference, a Maimonides spokesperson said, “Our top priority has always been providing high quality, accessible health care to our diverse Brooklyn communities. Despite the well-documented challenges faced by hospitals across the country, including all of Brooklyn’s safety net hospitals, Maimonides continues to be recognized for its outstanding patient care. Instead of trying to help the hospital find solutions to these challenges, a questionably funded, opaque group continues to intentionally misinform the public to advance its own self-interested agenda. The petition is just another stunt to spread misleading information, hurt the morale of our healthcare heroes, and dissuade patients from seeking care close to home. We’re open to dialogue with people of good faith who want to improve health care, and we are continuing to work collaboratively with partners, including the State and Northwell Health, but this group’s dangerous and destructive approach is just aimed at hurting the hospital.”

Hamodia conducted extensive interviews with Reiner and Gibbs in July. Reiner said then that Save Maimonides was not seeking to force out Gibbs and the other leaders, only to ensure independent oversight of the hospital’s finances to ensure the best outcomes for patients. But now, he is indeed calling for a change in leadership, he told Hamodia Tuesday afternoon, because “since our campaign began earlier this year, Maimonides leadership has taken no steps to actually improve the hospital; they have just blamed us for undermining the hospital. How can we undermine a hospital that is already ranked lowest – how much lower can it get?”

The standard petition (L), and the petition circulated in the Asian community in Sunset Park. (Reuvain Borchardt/Hamodia)

Northwell Health, which runs a network of hospitals in the state, entered into what it described as “strategic partnership” with Maimonides in 2015. Reiner said he believes Northwell would be an ideal entity to take over hospital management, and that none of the activists involved in Save Maimonides itself is interested in running the hospital.

“It doesn’t matter to us whether it’s Northwell or some other proven, successful hospital, but from what we understand Northwell already invested millions of dollars into Maimonides hospital and has entered into some negotiations,” Reiner told Hamodia. “They do know something about what’s going on in Maimonides, so Northwell would be a great choice.”

New York state’s Public Health Law Section 2806-a authorizes DoH to appoint a temporary facility operator to assume the sole responsibility for the operations of a hospital in certain circumstances, including when “a facility seeks extraordinary financial assistance, and the [Health] commissioner finds that the facility is experiencing serious financial instability that is jeopardizing existing or continued access to essential services within the community”; or if the Health commissioner “finds that there are conditions within the facility that seriously endanger the life, health or safety of residents or patients.”

Save Maimonides says it believes either condition has been satisfied for DoH to force a change in hospital leadership.

DoH told Hamodia in a statement, “The New York State Department of Health is aware of recent reports about the quality of care at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Complaints about quality of care are taken very seriously and may be the subject of an investigation. As a result, we cannot comment further on these reports.”

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