Neither website identifies who launched Save Maimonides. What they also do not say is that behind the self-proclaimed grassroots campaign is a well-funded initiative running on a team of paid canvassers and aimed at reforming the hospital by ousting and replacing its leadership.
One of the people who appears to be linked to the initiative, nursing home magnate Eliezer “Louis” Scheiner, had tried to do just that in 2020, when hospital executives met with him as part of an effort to drive more philanthropic contributions and build out its board of trustees.
“In 2019 and 2020, hospital leadership engaged an individual regarding philanthropic support for the hospital,” Gene Keilin, chairman of the Maimonides board of trustees, said. “In exchange for philanthropy, he proposed to name or approve a group of people to serve on the Board. The group would form a majority and effectively control the hospital. When this offer was made, it was declined.”
Scheiner said he would arrange tens of millions of dollars in philanthropic support in exchange for control of the board, according to senior hospital officials familiar with the matter.
Gibbs, Maimonides’ CEO, declined to comment.
In response to Crain’s request to interview Scheiner, his spokesman, Mercury Public Affairs president John Gallagher, said he was traveling and unavailable.
Gallagher confirmed that Scheiner met with Gibbs and Keilin about helping the hospital and that he pledged tens of millions of dollars but claimed that they did make an agreement, contrary to Keilin’s statement that the offer was declined.
“Mr. Scheiner and Mr. Gibbs struck an agreement where Louis, in his capacity as a philanthropist, would help raise and donate tens of millions of dollars, and recruit the most talented board members and staff, to try and turn-around the hospital,” Gallagher said in a statement. “In return, Ken Gibbs agreed that the failing hospital would institute desperately needed reforms. Mr. Scheiner donated a considerable amount of time, money and resources only to find out that Mr. Gibbs had no intention of keeping those promised reforms.”
A Maimonides spokeswoman confirmed that Scheiner has donated to the hospital through his private foundation, TL Foundation, but would not disclose the date or amount, citing hospital protocol. The donation does not appear to be listed in the foundation’s most recent tax filings.
Gallagher said Scheiner walked away from trying to fix the hospital one year ago and that he is not involved in or contributing to the Save Maimonides effort, although he agrees with it. But an ad in the July 13 edition of Mishpacha, a Haredi weekly magazine, which says “we are now taking action to demand the hospital improve conditions and save lives,” lists Scheiner as a signatory using a nickname, Lazer, according to a copy reviewed by Crain’s.
Scheiner owns stakes in at least 24 nursing homes across the country, including three in New York, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Some are among the worst-rated in their states, The Intercept reported in 2020. He has poured at least $800,000 into political campaigns in recent years, including $750,000 to a super PAC for former President Donald Trump in 2019, federal campaign records show.
Since it emerged several weeks ago, the Save Maimonides initiative has magnified a multitude of grievances with a hospital that largely serves lower-income patients on Medicaid and Medicare and has struggled to stay out of the red—even with financial support, staffing and expertise from Northwell, the state’s largest health care provider, under their affiliation agreement.
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Mendy Reiner, the group’s co-chair, said conditions at the hospital came onto his radar about a year ago, but he chalked them up to the pandemic. He decided to formalize the campaign after the stories persisted, but he said others in the group are reluctant to go public because they have been threatened indirectly or directly.
“I realized it’s not Covid—it’s the hospital that’s broken, and we need to do something about it,” he said in an interview.
Reiner said the goal is to collect more information and stories about the hospital. He said he also wants to see more government oversight.
Mordy Getz, the chief executive of urgent care center LevelUp MD and a self-identified vocal supporter of Save Maimonides, said the problems stem from hospital leadership and that the group wants to see more active and experienced members appointed to the board of trustees, in addition to increased governmental oversight.
“This is not about the nurses, the doctors; it’s about the leadership,” he said.
The group cites stories like that of Blima Marcus, a Borough Park resident whose grandmother was hospitalized at Maimonides and died there earlier this month.
Marcus, a nurse practitioner who is not part of Save Maimonides, said her grandmother had diabetes but waited six to seven hours before someone checked blood sugar levels. A nurse on her grandmother’s floor, a general medical/surgical unit, told Marcus that nurses were handling eight to nine patients each—a ratio that Marcus called dangerous.
“The nursing care is egregious because the hospital treats them egregiously,” she said
The hospital, they note, is rated poorly for patient experience. It has a “D” rating from the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit whose ratings are considered reliable in the industry.
It is unclear who is bankrolling the group’s substantial outreach efforts, but Reiner said they have raised roughly $500,000 from various sources. The group has a YouTube channel with several videos asking viewers to “help us restore our neighborhood’s pride.” It has placed ads in Hebrew-language news outlets and made logoed caps and t-shirts. Stu Loeser, a prominent communications strategist with his own firm and the press secretary to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is handling the group’s public relations.
That financing is also going toward canvassers: Save Maimonides has been recruiting workers to hand out fliers and “spread awareness” about the movement in Borough Park and Midwood, listings show.
“For a lot of people you may be the first person to tell them about our movement, therefore, we ask that you’re someone who is interested in community outreach and the betterment of Brooklyn,” reads a Craigslist ad posted last week, which offered $15 an hour.