Tag Archives: State Department of Health

Leaders vow to save and expand St. John’s Hospital at community forum

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

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If only one thing could be taken away from the St. John’s Episcopal Hospital forum on March 13, it’s that “St. John’s is not closing.”

The phrase was repeated numerous times by leaders of the hospital during the meet-and-greet event, which featured hospital chair Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, CEO Richard Brown, a representative from the State Department of Health, and Steve Kramer, executive vice president of the hospital’s employees’ union, 1199 SEIU.

State Senator James Sanders put the forum together to allow residents a face-to-face conference with the leaders to answer the community’s concerns about the future of the hospital.

Instead of closing, everyone in the room was focused on how the hospital and health care in the Rockaways would expand.

“My job is to make sure that nobody deviates from the path,” Sanders said. “The bottom line is we are going to save this hospital and we are heading north.”

Brown announced updates on the expansion of the hospital’s emergency department.

The project will cost an estimated $9 – $10 million, and double the size of the emergency department. The construction will be carried out in three phases over nearly two years. The expansion is lengthy because the emergency department will continue to stay open during construction.

Residents, who have complained the department is too small, hope the expansion could happen sooner.

“Yes, it’s terrible,” said Rockaway resident Anita Hunter, who was born in the hospital and whose sister currently works there. “You can barely walk in there. There are so many people lined up outside the examination room.”

Residents also used the forum to hasten the possible merger between the hospital and Catholic Health Services of Long Island, which would allow St. John’s to expand its services and resources.

Brown said the merger was still in the discussion phase. He said metaphorically that St. John’s is “dating” the Long Island organization, but not yet “married” to them.

“What we in this room are looking for is to see St. John’s be a first class hospital,” Kramer said. “We ask you, Bishop and CEO Brown, to make moves as quickly as possible to expedite the merger.”

Perhaps the most exciting statement made at the meeting, though, was Sanders declaring he would like to see the shuttered Peninsula Hospital used as an additional emergency department. The room was immediately filled with cheers.

“I didn’t take this job to lose,” Sanders said. “I didn’t come on to be in charge of the dismantling of health care in the Rockaways. I believe in this place and I believe we can do better.”



Peninsula Hospital to close

| mchan@queenscourier.com


Officials plan to pull the plug on Peninsula Hospital.

The floundering Far Rockaway facility is required to submit a closure plan to the state’s Department of Health (DOH), said Michael Moran, a spokesperson for the agency.

News of the termination came after a long series of unshakable bankruptcy battles and instability at the hospital.

Failed state health inspections found the hospital’s lab to be “a danger and threat” to patients on February 23, which forced the hospital to temporarily halt its emergency care services and stop admitting new patients.

Peninsula then had to lay off over 240 employees this month in order to conserve cash while the hospital was “on diversion,” according to officials.

A court-ordered bankruptcy trustee — Long Island attorney Lori Lapin Jones — was recently appointed to take over all operations at Peninsula. She determined on March 26, according to bankruptcy court files, that revival was not in the cards for Peninsula.

The sudden news has even thrown Borough President Helen Marshall off guard.

“I was assured in writing [on] March 12 that [State Commissioner of Health] Nirav Shah’s office was working closely with Peninsula Hospital to provide support to their efforts to come back into compliance. That makes [this] announcement particularly bewildering,” she said. “There is a medical crisis in Rockaway. One hospital is now responsible for the care of more than 100,000 residents living on a peninsula that has limited access and egress options.”

Marshall said her office commissioned a study in 2006, finding the healthcare delivery system in Queens not to be sustainable in its current state. She said she recommended there should be “one new comprehensive hospital built in the Rockaways.”

“No one listened,” Marshall said. “We now have a situation where reports have surfaced that St. John’s Hospital is turning people away, while nearby Peninsula Hospital is laying off approximately 1,000 individuals.”

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital has been absorbing the brunt of Peninsula’s patient since the lab shut down last month.

According to CEO Nelson Toebbe, the hospital “stands ready to meet the healthcare needs of the community.”

Toebbe said St. John’s is currently waiting for state approval for plans to expand its emergency room, ambulatory care, surgery, intensive care and in-patient facilities.

“Assuming state approval is granted quickly, those steps should be complete in the coming months,” he said. “We have been working diligently with the DOH to obtain approvals for expanded capacity within our facilities, since talks of the potential Peninsula Hospital Center closure began months ago. We will move as fast as possible subject to required reviews and access to capital.”

DOH officials said the agency would monitor operations at Peninsula to ensure an orderly closure, while working with other providers to make sure patients have access to services that will be closing and making sure medical records are transferred to appropriate providers upon the request of patients.

Moran said there is no time frame yet as to when Peninsula’s doors will close for good.

“The hospital needs to put together and file a closure plan,” he said. “We will have to wait to see that.”

Peninsula Hospital declined to comment.