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Rally Held To Keep SUNY Downstate Medical Center Open

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A broad coalition of faith, labor and community leaders rallied Thursday to keep SUNY Downstate Medical Center open.

Activists held a news conference, a prayer service and a march.

SUNY Downstate is among four Brooklyn hospitals in dire financial trouble. The others are Brookdale Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital (LICH).

The Rev. Al Sharpton joined other religious leaders and politicians calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to put up $100 million to save the hospital.

"This is a critical and, in my opinion, crisis-level shame," Sharpton said.

SUNY Downstate serves tens of thousands of people in central Brooklyn, including John Brown, who said he got dialysis and a kidney transplant at the hospital with no coverage except Medicaid.

"This place means everything to me. Without this place, I wouldn't me able to talk to you today," Brown said. "It breaks my heart. That's why I'm out here today. I don't want it to close. We need them."

NY1 was the first to report in February on LICH's planned closure, a money-saving move that was meant to preserve SUNY Downstate's other properties, including the medical center. However, administrators were forced by the courts to put the LICH closure plans on hold.

Cuomo is asking the federal government for $10 billion from Medicaid restructuring to save all four hospitals from possibly going out of business by year's end.

Demonstrators at SUNY Downstate appreciated the effort, but said the governor needs to do more.

"I think that his appeal is right, but I think that even in the midst of the appeal, we must not sacrifice a community that has already faced severe cutbacks," Sharpton said. "So though I support his appeal to the federal government, we want his commitment here by Downstate."

The state budget has mandated that SUNY come up with a restructuring sustainability plan. The governor's office told NY1 that once that happens, it will work with SUNY Downstate on finding funding sources.

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