School’s open — and so are these clinics

Daniel L. Squadron

September 09, 2009

Feature article in The Brooklyn Paper

By Mike McLaughlin

Endangered health clinics in four public schools will be open when students return to class today, thanks to an emergency infusion of cash from the state government.

The four clinics located in elementary and middle schools in Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill and Park Slope are run by Long Island College Hospital, which said it had to close the centers because they lose $300,000 per year.

The state scrounged up the funds to cover the gap — a relief to politicians and parents paranoid about the return of swine flu

“These clinics not only heal and educate our kids, they also serve as the first line of defense against threats like the H1N1 flu, which will be back with a vengeance this fall,” Borough President Markowitz said in a statement.

Markowitz has been leading the fight to maintain the clinics and the maternity and pediatric wards that LICH threatened to shut last year.

There are about 3,000 students in the four schools: the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies on Henry Street, Middle School 51 on Fifth Avenue, PS 38 on Pacific Street and the School for Global Studies on Court Street.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Carroll Gardens) said that housing such clinics in schools is a “21st-century model” for delivering public services.

LICH’s severe budget problems came to light last year when the 151-year-old medical center announced it would shut its pediatrics and maternity wards.

But the state rejected that move, saying other area hospitals could not pick up the slack if LICH aborted those services. Just as in the case about the clinics, the state opted for a short-term solution by providing $3 million.

A longer-term solution involves the complicated negotiations between the state and LICH’s parent company, Continuum Health Partners, to merge the financially troubled medical center with SUNY Downstate hospital.

Squadron says that if those talks are successful, the school-based clinics will be protected.

“[The new state funding] is a short-term measure because we’re working towards a long-term solution,” he told The Brooklyn Paper.