2006-11-24 / Community

Weiner: Spare Ax For Rockaway Hospitals

Congressman Anthony Weiner at an earlier function in Rockaway.
Congressman Anthony Weiner at an earlier function in Rockaway. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who represents the western portion of Rockaway in the House of Representatives, took strong issue with the state and the Berger Commission over the published reports that the commission will recommend the closing of one of Rockaways two hospitals.

Reacting to the word that either Peninsula Hospital Center in Arverne or St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway will be closed by the governor's hospital downsizing commission (see page 2 story), Weiner argued in a prepared statement that the local hospitals are being "punished for an antiquated system that funnels more money into surgical care than preventative care."

"The Rockaways need two major health care providers," Weiner said. "Everybody agrees that there should be more outpatient care and fewer hospital beds, but the regulatory obstacles are enormous."

While nobody is sure what the report, which is due out on Monday, November 27, actually says, Crain's New York Business reported last week that the Berger Commission, named for its chairperson, will recommend closing one of Rockaway's two hospitals.

The Crain's article went on to say that St. John's Episcopal Hospital was involved in a hostile takeover of Peninsula without the latter's knowledge, but Penny Chin, a spokesperson for St. John's told The Wave that the report of a takeover bid was "a complete falsehood." Chin said that St. John's believes that "greater cooperation is the key to the future of healthcare in the Rockaways. Both St. John's and Peninsula have supported the recent call by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall for a new, specialized hospital on the peninsula.

Chin pointed to the fact that St. John's has a maternity ward, which Peninsula does not and that PHC has some amenities that St. John's does not have.

"We both work hard in the interests of the community we serve and we always strive to treat our fellow healthcare providers with respect and inclusion," Chin said.

Liz Sulik, a spokesperson for Peninsula Hospital Center, said, "Once again, speculation has overtaken sensibility."

She added that Peninsula was recently approved by the state for the construction of a multi-million dollar cardiac catheterization laboratory in affiliation with its affiliate, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, an amenity that St. John's does not share.

Come Monday, the report will be issued and the speculation will end.

Experts and community activists told The Wave that they expect that any decision to close either Rockaway hospital, especially in light of the isolation of the community and the fact that thousands of new residents are moving to the peninsula each year, will be fought "tooth and nail."

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