Cuomo buys time for Interfaith

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Interfaith. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara on Sunday in Brooklyn, and said the state would provide funding to sustain operations at Interfaith Medical Center.

On Monday, the state's Health Department announced a timeline for its support, saying the state would fund the financially troubled hospital until March 7, 2014. 

"It's a Christmas miracle," said Public Advocate-elect Letitia James. "It came about because electeds from Central Brooklyn had an emergency meeting Saturday morning, we met with the governor yesterday and he gave us some resources to keep the hospital open."

Among the elected officials present at the Saturday morning meeting were Rep. Yvette Clarke, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Assemblyman Karim Camara, City Councilmember-elect Robert Cornegy and City Councilmember Al Vann.

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On Sunday, Cuomo met with Camara, who was designated as the group's representative. 

Camara said he couldn't say for certain whether his discussion with the governor this weekend was the reason for the state's decision to keep funding Interfaith.

"Whatever the rationale was ... we are appreciative that the governor’s office wants to come to a solution," said Camara, who cautioned that the state's decision doesn't yet put the hospital on firm financial footing.

"There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of finding money, and having time for the Medicaid waiver and restructuring," he said. "Today was a day that could have been the culmination of something very bad. We are appreciative of the fact that they didn't do it." 

Cuomo's decision to forestall the hospital's closing begins another chapter in an ongoing saga for the beleaguered Brooklyn hospital, which filed for bankruptcy in December of last year, and loses about $3 million a month.

The hospital, its creditors and other stakeholders entered mediation last month in attempt to navigate the hospital's finances. The mediation talks broke down last week, and a spokeswoman for the hospital said Friday that a bankruptcy judge would issue a closure order sometime today for the hospital, which was originally set to close Dec. 26.

James said the mediation negotiations broke down last week over a "number of outstanding issues," chief among them the issue of what entity would take over Interfaith's inpatient services. Another important factor in the talks was the hospital's "outstanding liabilities."

James said that discussion hinged on deciding which creditors would get paid, and who would assume certain of the hospital's liabilities. 

A spokesperson for Interfaith, Melissa Krantz, initially said the hospital's attorneys received word they would be receiving some money from the state, but didn't know how much.

The state later announced the March 7 timeline. 

“During this period, the State Health Department will continue its review of IMC's transition plan and work closely with the facility towards final approval,” said health department spokesman Bill Schwarz. “The State is committed to establishing a quality, accessible and sustainable health care delivery system to serve patients and community residents.”

The state's congressional delegation, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Yvette Clarke, in particular, are pushing the federal government to approve a $10 billion Medicaid waiver that could provide the state with an infusion of funds.

In a statement, Jeffries said he was "thankful" for the state's intervention. 

"The hospital remains on life support, but today we have taken a significant step forward by avoiding closure," he said.

James also said that she and Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara are currently in touch with Governor Cuomo, and James said she'd reached out to the city's newly-elected mayor, Bill de Blasio, who campaigned on a pledge to preserve the city's hospitals.

"I've been in touch with mayor elect Bill de Blasio to try to get additional funds," she said.

A spokesperson for de Blasio did not immediately return a request for comment, but the mayor-elect told reporters on Sunday that the hospital's closure "ain't over til it's over."

CORRECTION: Based on information from James, this article initially stated that Cuomo had agreed to provide $2 million in state funding, and that she had attended the Sunday meeting with the governor. Upon further questioning, James contradicted her original on-the-record comments, saying she had not personally met with the governor, and that no specific figure had been offered.