A Wave Exclusive…
President, CEO Levine Responds To Report On Peninsula Hospital Center
By Gary G. Toms
When the Alliance for Quality Health Care released results of a study they conducted regarding hospitals that provide exceptional quality care, 3 Queens hospitals were excluded from the list. The organization, which is a coalition of businesses, health care plan and consumer groups, cited Flushing, St. John's Queens and Peninsula Hospital as facilities that are performing far below the national standard. The assessment of the three hospitals was made after AQHC looked at the high death rate for victims of heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, and congestive heart failure.
Upon release of the report, which was disclosed in Newsday and The New York Times, Peninsula Hospital Center's President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert Levine, declined to speak to reporters because he never reviewed the report, and he refused to comment until he had the opportunity to do so.
A few days after the story broke, The Wave contacted Levine to offer him an opportunity to respond to the Buffalo organization's report. Now, as part of a Wave exclusive, Levine breaks his silence and responds to the report card issued by the AQHC.
W: I've read previous comments you made in the daily papers, but I want to go beyond that. How damaging is this report to your hospital?
Levine: I don't consider it damaging at all because the constituents of Rockaway, a good number if the many people we care for, know what type of health care we provide here at Peninsula. People in the community have come up to me and said how unfair they thought the story was because they felt that we did an excellent job of caring for people. Moreover, I don't think the report is damaging because it ignores a crucial component in its analysis and data.
W: What is that?
Levine: The report did not take into consideration the large number of elderly and terminally ill patients treated by our hospital, which may have affected the data. As a community hospital, we provide the highest level of quality care to this neighborhood. And because of where we are located, many of our patients come from more than 20 nursing homes in the area that we serve. Many are old and frail, and many are terminally ill. This will definitely have an impact on any study. This is a key element missing from the AQHC report.
W: Did you have any indication by the Alliance of Quality Health Care that this study was being conducted?
Levine: I had no idea that they were doing this study. I had no idea that the organization existed. I didn't find out anything about this until I got a call last Friday night from a Newsday reporter. They asked me what I thought about the report issued by the Niagara Health Quality Coalition, and I said, "What report?" After doing some research, I realized the NHQC was affiliated with the agency that issued the report. That was how I found out about it.
W: Did you do an evaluation of the hospital, and if so, did your investigation yield the same results?
Levine: We do periodic evaluations of the facility, through an outside entity, and if we find any problems we quickly correct them. We issue a number of surveys to patients at the hospital, and we ask them to complete them and return them to us. Once we go over them, we then decide on strategies to improve certain things and make necessary corrections in others. We do not agree with the AQHC's findings.
W: What do you think of the AQHC, which is not a state agency, issuing the report without your knowledge?
Levine: I honesty couldn't tell you why they put out this information to the public, especially since they didn't check all of the data regarding our hospital. Ordinarily, we are aware of any agency that may be conducting a study or releasing a report, be they state or public. I really don't know why they did this or why they failed to inform us after its completion. It should also be noted that AQHC is one of many agencies that issues public reports.
W: Earlier this year, the hospital was cited for violating the resident working hours provision. Now, the AQHC has released this report that again questions the hospital's policies and procedures? As the President and Chief Executive Officer, how much of the responsibility do you accept, with regard to the poor ratings received in the last year?
Levine: I accept full responsibility with everything associated with this hospital, for the most part. I mean, I'm not a doctor or medical specialist, so I can't be held accountable in that regard. However, I am responsible for making sure the people coming into this hospital are well taken care of and that the staff is courteous and professional.
W: In light of the two reports released this year, Peninsula Hospital Center has taken some hits, with the latest report being the hardest. What is the overall feeling in the hospital, as far as the morale of the employees?
Levine: They are fine. The employees understand that public report cards from agencies like the AQHC are a part of life. They are confident in the services they provide.
W: Would you like to make any closing remarks?
Levine: I would just like to say this, and I'm speaking on behalf of doctors, nurses and all employees affiliated with this hospital. I am extremely confident in the quality of health care service we provide. I have been at this hospital for seven years, and the community knows my track record. I am a member of the community, and we are the largest employer of people from this community, with over 1100 people in the last five years. I take full responsibility for my staff, and I am more than confident in the work that we do at Peninsula Hospital Center.