2007-12-28 / Editorial/Opinion

Once More, It's Location,Location,Location

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall had a good idea when she followed up the report of the New York State Commission on Health Related Facilities by asking in her State of The Borough speech for a single, state-of-the-art hospital in Rockaway. As Marshall pointed out in her 2006 speech, too many local residents are forced to go off the peninsula, to Manhattan and Long Island, for specialized care such as cardiac surgery. She wants to bring everybody home with a hospital that will fit the patient's needs. As the commission pointed out, both of our hospitals- Peninsula Hospital Center and St. John's Episcopal Hospital - are antiquated as modern medicine goes. It would probably cost more to bring those hospitals up to speed than it would be to build one new, super hospital. We agree with Marshall that Rockaway residents need a new facility that would serve the need for both the care that they now get from our two hospitals and the care that they now must leave the peninsula to receive. The need is imperative, especially in light of the building boom now underway, with literally upwards of 2,000 new units coming on line in the next several years. As with all real estate, the problem with building a new hospital seems to be location, location, location. While nobody outside the hospital community has been asked for their input, we believe that the question of where to put the hospital has become contentious. St. John's Episcopal Hospital serves the Five Towns communities as well as the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula. St. John's Episcopal Hospital gets its major funding from the Five Towns. The majority of its doctors have offices in the Five Towns, not in Rockaway. We have heard, therefore, that some of those involved with that institution want to see any new hospital remain in Far Rockaway, at the far eastern end of the peninsula, on the theory that Five Towns residents would not access a hospital further west on the peninsula. Those involved with Peninsula Hospital Center, on Beach 51 Street, however, see a possibility of building a new facility somewhere nearby, perhaps in the parking lot of the existing PHC. The plan then would be to build the new hospital and then tear down the old one, using that footprint for a new parking garage, just as our new ballparks are doing. We like that plan. While PHC is not in the center of the peninsula (Beach 125 Street is the geographical center of the peninsula, if you count Breezy Point) but there is no room in Rockaway Park and Arverne By The Sea has most of the land east of that tied up for development. The present PHC site is closer to the middle than any other available land. We have another concern as well. We wonder about who will run the new hospital. Having a religious organization run a hospital can be dicey because there is a growing movement that such institutions should not provide the services that somehow violate their religious beliefs. In some recent cases, that includes providing birth control information or medication as well as providing abortion services. We would not like that to be the case in Rockaway. We would like to see two things happen: First, that the community be brought into the discussion in a real way, perhaps through a series of public hearings held throughout the peninsula; and, secondly, that a central location be a prime consideration for any new hospital facility. It is a truism of life that when you need a hospital, you usually need it sooner than later.

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