2008-08-08 / Top Stories

Borough President: Hospital Merger Stalled

By Howard Schwach

A critical merger of Rockaway's two hospitals, St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway and the Peninsula Hospital Center in Edgemere, ordered by a state commission has been stalled over considerations of religion and geography, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said this week. Marshall, who reportedly brokered the discussions between the two hospitals, told Daily News reporter Asya Farr, "They are sort of at a standstill," noting that the sticking points are the Far Rockaway hospital's affiliation with the Episcopal Health Network, an affiliation that may have to end if the merger with the secular PHC goes through, as well as the larger controversy over where the new facility would be built.

"[St. John's] feels that their identify would be lost [in the merger]," the borough president said.

The conventional wisdom at the time that the Berger Commission, a state panel dedicated to modernizing the health care system, ordered the merger was that the new, state-of-the-art facility designed to replace both of Rockaway's present hospitals, would be built somewhere in the center of the peninsula so that it could be easily accessed. Insiders say, however, that SJEH has a large constituency in the Five Towns of Nassau County and would prefer that the new facility be built in the Far Rockaway area.

Many locals say that a new hospital is necessary because of the fact that neither of our local hospitals has a trauma center - the nearest is in Jamaica Hospital, 30 minutes away on a good day - and that the population of Rockaway has grown by more than 20,000 residents since 2002, due mostly to the building boom in Arverne By The Sea and other development projects.

The deadline set by the Berger Commission for a merger plan was June 30, 2008. Apparently, the deadline has passed with no plan. The borough president, however, has hopes for the future.

"This is a very important issue for the community," stated Marshall. "It needs good health care on the peninsula and residents should not have to go to Manhattan to get it."

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