BAY RIDGE - The Department of Health has shot down a plan that would have saved Victory Memorial Hospital by merging it with SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

The compromise would have seen SUNY take over Victory's emergency room rather than close the hospital completely. Victory's operations would still be scaled back with a smaller inpatient facility under the proposal.

Local leaders are calling on health officials to rescind their decision to block the merger.

"We believe the health and safety of this community is in crisis," says state Senator Martin Golden (R - Brooklyn). "If you don't take care of it, people will die, people will be hurt and people will be underserved in the southwest part of Brooklyn."

Opponents of the health center's closing say shutting down Victory's emergency room could be devastating to the community. Approximately 14 percent of the area's residents do not have a primary health care provider and go directly to the E.R. when having medical problems. Critics say making those patients travel even minutes further could be a matter of life and death.