A field hospital in Central Park for COVID-19 patients being run by Samaritan’s Purse, a socially conservative religious organization headed by evangelist Franklin Graham, will stop admitting new patients.
On Saturday, Mount Sinai Hospital announced that the field hospital — which served as an extension of Mount Sinai — would close down within two weeks, as Samaritan’s Purse winds down operations. In total, the facility has treated about 315 patients suffering from COVID-19-related illnesses, reports CBS News.
“While this crisis is far from over, this marks a significant turning point in the coronavirus outbreak in New York that gives us assurance that we are returning towards normalcy,” Mount Sinai said in a statement.
The field hospital was the source of much controversy after medical workers reported that they were being forced to sign onto a “statement of faith” expressing opposition to homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism. One activist was rejected, even after he posed as a doctor, after he refused to sign the statement and claimed to be gay.
In response, LGBTQ activists protested the decision to allow Samaritan’s Purse to operate the hospital, and demanded oversight to ensure that the hospital was not violating New York’s nondiscrimination law by discriminating against workers or patients seeking treatment. Other activists accused Samaritan’s Purse of using the field hospital as a publicity stunt to raise money.
While Samaritan’s Purse insisted it was not discriminating against patients, Graham previously defended the decision to vet field hospital staff, insisting his organization had the right to insist that it only work with medical staff who embrace Christian morality, due to its religious beliefs, and comparing gays to drunks and drug users. He also claimed that the negative publicity the organization had received was “distracting” its workers from dedicating all of their time to fighting the pandemic.
It remains unclear whether those protests and the negative publicity played a role in the closure, although some conservative media outlets pointed to criticism from pro-LGBTQ media politicians, most notably New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who called on Samaritan’s Purse to leave the city.
“This group, which is led by the notoriously bigoted, hate-spewing Franklin Graham, came at a time when our city couldn’t in good conscience turn away any offer of help,” Johnson said in a statement. “That time has passed. Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion, and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.”
Calling on Mount Sinai to sever its relationship with Graham’s organization, Johnson said: “I am aware that our battle against COVID-19 is still ongoing, and that our health care system — and the amazing workers who have been the heroes of this unprecedented time in our history — still needs support…. But as a city that values diversity and compassion for all, we cannot continue to allow a group with the track record of Samaritan’s Purse to remain here when we are past the point they are needed.”
The Reclaim Pride Coalition, which has been the most critical of Graham’s involvement with the field hospital, held a protest on Sunday outside Mount Sinai’s Beth Israel location, which has also received assistance from Samaritan’s Purse, to condemn city and state leaders for allowing Samaritan’s Purse to take charge of the hospital in the first place.
“We want New Yorkers to know that they have been sold down the river by their officials and leaders who have not cared about them in bringing bigotry into the city,” Ann Northrop, a Reclaim Pride Coalition member, said, according to NY1.
But the coalition also celebrated the pending closure of the hospital in the coming weeks.
“We are very relieved and consider this to be a victory of the LGBT community and other oppressed groups,” said Natalie James, the co-founder of the Reclaim Pride Coalition.
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