2010-11-26 / Editorial/Opinion

Putting The Peninsula’s Health At Risk

Despite official statements to the contrary, the latest financial crisis at the Peninsula Hospital Center may well be the beginning of the end for the much-needed local institution. Not only does the hospital center treat a large percentage of the peninsula’s residents, it is the largest employer on the peninsula, with more than 1,000 employees. Hospital sources say that the great majority of its workers live on the peninsula, and to add 1,000 unemployed people to our already deep (some say 19 percent) unemployment problem would be devastating. There have been warning signs for some time that the hospital center was running into financial difficulty. Some of the local doctors who had a longtime affiliation with the hospital recently ended that affiliation, opting instead for St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway or Nassau County hospitals. A few months ago, the hospital failed to make payroll, but officials assured us that it was only a “computer glitch” that would be easily fixed. Last week it was revealed that the hospital had not been paying the required health care payments to the union and that employees would lose their health insurance. Though a last minute deal was worked out to extend the deadline two weeks, it is hard to understand how the hospital could make up the reported $2.4 million it owes the union in such a short time. In April of 2009, the hospital center was merged with Medisys, the health care giant that runs three other hospitals in Queens, as well as a myriad of health care clinics and nursing homes. It was quietly hoped at the time that Medisys would become the savior of the financially troubled Rockaway unit. That has apparently not come to fruition. Rockaway cannot afford to lose the Peninsula Hospital Center. Aside from its emergency room, which serves a large portion of the west end, the hospital hosts some vital services that cannot be found anywhere else locally. PHC is one of the few hospitals in the region that have been designated as a brain injury and rehabilitation center and its 20 bed TBI unit draws patients not only from all over the peninsula, but all over the area. Its 14-bed hospice and palliative care unit is unique in the region as well. Add the Angels on the Bay and Butterflies on the Bay pediatric units that serve our young and a state-of-the-art thoracic surgery unit to the hospital’s impressive resume. We doubt that our other hospital, St. John’s Episcopal, could easily replicate those programs and pick up the slack left by the demise of PHC. For that reason, we call on our local elected officials to get to work to find the money to bail out the 103-year-old hospital and keep it running. Making Rockaway a onehospital peninsula would put everyone’s

“ health at risk.

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