NEW YORK—Queens is losing its fifth hospital in as many years, and it could happen as soon as Monday, according to Peninsula Hospital Center employees. Patients are already being transferred to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, the area’s only other major hospital.
“The borough of Queens has already sustained four hospital closures in less than five years. And there was a recent health report that said Queens was already without enough beds per resident,” said Assemblywoman Michele Titus.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith joined city and state politicians, employees, and local residents outside the New York Department of Health in Lower Manhattan on Sunday to call on the state Department of Health to delay the closing and allow time for an official investigation.
The hospital is the largest employer on the Rockaway peninsula with 1,100 staff, 90 percent of whom are Rockaway residents. Its emergency room services over 30,000 patients a year.
Smith was assured last month in a meeting with Robert Levine, president and CEO of Peninsula Hospital Center, that the hospital would not be facing closure despite its financial woes. The hospital is now $63 million in debt, $20 million of which is owed to the 1199SEIU (Service Employees International Union) health care workers’ benefit fund, and is losing approximately $10 million a year.
According to an outcome of discussions between the state Department of Health, the hospital, and other parties, there is “no hope of continuing Peninsula as a hospital.”
“I’m afraid. I’m afraid for the people standing behind me. I’m afraid for their jobs, I’m afraid for their healthcare, but most importantly, as a father raising two children in Rockaway, I’m afraid for my children,” said Philip Goldfeder, a Rockaway resident and staff member at the office of Sen. Charles Schumer.
Hospital staff received 90-day termination notices late in July, listing Oct. 22 as the termination date. The hospital is legally mandated under the WARN Act to provide advance notice of a mass layoff. The notice also stated that actual terminations may occur at an earlier date.
“I am not standing here to say that we have hard evidence, but clearly there seems to be something wrong with what happened at Peninsula Hospital,” Smith said.
The hospital was taken over by MediSys Health Network in 2009. David Rosen, president and CEO of MediSys, was indicted on corruption charges on March 10. The federal case charges that Rosen bribed Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. and state Sen. Carl Kruger “in order to obtain their support in state matters.”
Brookdale, another hospital for which MediSys Health Network is a supporting entity, is also facing possible closure, according to Smith.
“MediSys is our parent company. MediSys has had problems in the past. Mr. Rosen was indicted, so we’re looking into an investigation as to where our finances have gone,” said Mary Burke, a hospital employee.
The Berger Commission on Health Care Facilities advised in 2006 for the Peninsula Hospital to merge with St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, or for the two facilities to reduce bed count.“We cannot support the continuation of two separate, inefficient, and outmoded facilities [in] this area of Queens, which is experiencing major development and population growth,” states the commission’s report.
Smith has asked state Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to reject the hospital’s plan to close. He has also asked State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to conduct a financial audit of the hospital’s books and has called on state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to start a criminal investigation.