Last Wednesday, Hochul revisited the site again for a tour, where she declared that the center had “exceeded all expectations.”
“Ultimately, this is going to be a game changer for so many of our fields,” she said. “I think we’re going to see changes.”
The lieutenant governor was in Brooklyn to give her overview of the governor’s State of the State address, but she also took time to meet with officials from SUNY Downstate to discuss their needs and goals.
In a briefing to Hochul, SUNY Downstate President Wayne Riley said it’s time for a new women and children’s hospital for Brooklyn. The only children’s hospital in the borough is Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park, which is seven miles away.
With traffic, it may as well be 70 miles away, Riley said. Given the borough’s large and growing population, the lack of options means many mothers take their children to Manhattan for care.
“There’s enough children in Brooklyn to support a full-fledged children’s hospital,” he said.
Riley said he’d also like to see a new, smaller hospital with 150 beds, an ambulatory care center, and expanded specialty clinics. Other capital needs include a new garage and a more modern maternity ward. Currently, mothers still have to walk down a hall to take a shower, either pre-birth or post-birth.
Riley said SUNY Downstate is also interested in working with Governor Andrew Cuomo on his “Vital Brooklyn” program, a $1.4 billion initiative to address social, economic and health disparities in central Brooklyn.
More specifically, Riley said he’s interested in being a co-developer of affordable housing, because that can be a social determinant of health in the community.
“Health is not just me taking care of a patient, but making sure the community has housing,” he said. “If you give somebody housing, they tend to have less disease, less everything.”
A looming challenge may be the hospital’s finances if Congress doesn’t pass a bill funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly known as CHIP.
Riley said the hospital is reliant on Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments, which go to qualifying hospitals that serve a large number of Medicaid and uninsured patients.
If CHIP funding doesn’t pass, SUNY Upstate could take a $75 million dip in its next budget, he warned.
SUNY Downstate officials then took Hochul on a tour of the biotechnology incubator, which houses new companies that are conducting “cutting-edge” science research and products.
Riley called the biotech sector an “emerging, growing, and thriving” part of the life sciences community in New York City. The biotech incubator was built to be a “player” in that space.
“It really serves as a catalyst for young scientific companies to grow their business, refine their research, and perfect their business model as they seek to go to market,” he said.
The space offers these companies laboratory and administrative space and access to the university’s students, libraries and research facilities. Not only is it advantageous because of its small footprint and low overhead, Riley said, but because of the community they are in.
“They’re in a small colony of other like-minded, entrepreneurial scientific investigators who really share the same vision and ethos to grow their company,” Riley said. “That’s why the incubator concept for an academic medical center is so attractive.
“We know that these companies conduct research that can lead to new therapies, new medical devices, new drugs, new treatments to cure disease,” he added.
They visited four companies, including startups that are looking to revolutionize chemotherapy or treat breast cancer in a different way.
After the tour, Hochul, who spoke to each of the “emerging entrepreneurs” at the incubator, said she was most impressed by a company that uses stem cell research to create new bones to replace body parts. Over a five to seven-week period, they can create body parts without using a cadaver.
“I cannot imagine the possibilities of how transformative that can be in the medical profession,” she said. “I’m very excited.”