2005-08-18 / Editorial/Opinion

Local Hospitals Are Too Valuable An Asset To Lose

There is no doubt that the two hospitals and the family health center that cater to the needs of our isolated peninsula are necessary for the continued good health of the growing Rockaway community. With a growing elderly population added to the influx of literally thousands of new residents over the next four or five years, the continuation of Peninsula Hospital Center, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and the Addabbo Family Health Center are of paramount concern. Hospitals all over the state are in financial trouble due to both the raising cost of health care and the declining payment of services for those who have Medicaid and Medicare. New, state-of-the-art equipment is mandatory and very expensive. Health care professionals, the doctors, nurses and technicians who are the heart or any hospital are equally mandatory and equally expensive. While many hospitals, including those in Rockaway, fundraise for new equipment, the costs of running the day-to-day activities in a modern hospital can be daunting. There is a delicate balance between costs and reimbursements. The projected nurses strike at Peninsula Hospital Center threatens to destroy that delicate balance and put the hospital out of business. We cannot allow that to happen, not be denying nurses their much-deserved compensation, but by finding a way to cut costs to accommodate a realistic compensation for everybody involved. The hospital says that it has already cut administrative costs to the bone, but we have found in our long study of management-labor problems that there is always room for administrative cuts. Those who work in the trenches often distrust management and its compensation package. Management has to take a cut if nurses are to agree to a package that will allow the vital institution to stay open. At the same time, nurses must understand that the problem is not theirs alone. Some hospitals, the Westchester Medical Center, for example, have already been taken over by the state. Others have gone into bankruptcy. A state commission is working to study the hospital problem with an eye to cutting services at some, pairing hospitals in terms of the services they provide, or closing some hospitals entirely. This is a transition time for Rockaway, a community that is isolated from other health services. Many more middle-class people will soon be coming to Rockaway, people with health insurance that need health care. This is not the time to undo the delicate balance. This is a case where management and labor have to work together to find a solution for the community’s sake. The health care facilities that we have now are minimum. None of them should be closed, and a disastrous nurses strike at PHC might just have that effect.

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