Hospital Merger Needs Cooperation, Not Intransigence
On June 30, an important deadline passed with little fanfare. In 2006, the Berger Commission, tasked with renovating the state's health care system, set that date as the deadline for discussions that would lead to a merger of Rockaway's two major health care facilities - the Peninsula Hospital Center and St. John's Episcopal Hospital. The commission called for the closing of the two present antiquated buildings and the construction of a single, state-of-the-art facility on the peninsula. While the two hospitals have been talking about the merger, albeit not very seriously, over the past two years, the sticking point seems to be where the new building will be sited. St. John's serves a large Five Towns constituency, as well as the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula. It's officials are apparently intent on keeping the merged facility in the Far Rockaway area. That is not the best option for Rockaway, however. The best plan would be to build the new facility on PHC's parking lot and perhaps on the large, virtually unused parking lot across Beach 51 Street. Then, once the new facility is built, the old hospital across the street could be torn down. That would site the new facility near Rockaway's center of gravity. To build the new facility in Far Rockaway would site it far from the growing west end communities. We understand that one major concern that St. John's has to face is losing its religious focus in any merger with PHC. We believe, however, that the merger and the construction of a new building is a necessity. Neither of the hospitals has a trauma center. The nearest such facility is at Jamaica Hospital, more than 30 minutes away. The peninsula is growing by leaps and bounds. More than 20,000 new residents have crowded the peninsula since 2002. Emergency room visits to PHC are up nearly five percent. The hospitals are our two largest employers. Something has to be done, and done quickly. It is time for cooperation and compromise, not for intransigence.