2011-01-28 / Top Stories

Rockaway Health Care Could Lose Millions

By Nicholas Briano

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital could lose more than $2 million in federal funding if an extension is not granted for the construction deadline of a new outpatient facility. St. John’s Episcopal Hospital could lose more than $2 million in federal funding if an extension is not granted for the construction deadline of a new outpatient facility. Federal funding for two health care facilities on the peninsula is in danger of expiring later this year if an extension is not granted for each project’s completion, according to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and Central Assisted Living, both in Far Rockaway, could lose a combined $4 million in funding already set aside for construction improvements if they are not completed by September 30. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, along with a group of Senate and House colleagues, wrote a letter to President Obama’s budget chief and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this week, calling for a three-year extension of the deadline in order to allow the projects to move forward.

St. John’s Hospital has been allocated $2.2 million to construct a Center for Integrated Care by renovating an existing space for outpatient services to people that suffer from dual diagnoses of mental health and substance abuse disorders.

The $1.6 million in funding for Central Assisted Living is to expand the facility’s capacity, which includes adding more beds to meet their growing demand for patient care.

Penny Chin, spokesperson for St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, says the construction of this facility will lower the hospital’s costs in the long run.

The facility will be renovated from an existing space within the hospital’s main campus.

“The project is very much needed to treat people with mental illnesses and substance abuse issues,” she said. “It’s a nationwide problem and a Rockaway problem, so it would be a great opportunity and more cost effective in the long run to be able to complete this facility.”

The funding for these two projects, along with more than 450 others in New York State, was made possible as part of the Federal-State Health Reform Program (FSHRP). The program is meant to provide financial aid to modernize hospitals and create jobs across the state by investing in infrastructure projects.

The project was announced in 2006 and New York received $2.5 billion. However, the funding was awarded under the condition that they be completed by September 30, 2011.

According to Gillibrand’s office, due to “bureaucratic red tape at the state and federal level, it took an unexpectedly long time to get the projects underway.”

As a result, the deadline for these two projects, along with 350 others that have not been completed, may expire.

According to Gillibrand’s office an extension was asked for, but with no response thus far. The extension of the deadline would not require additional funding, just time.

“This agreement has resulted in greater oversight and accountability. It has saved taxpayer money and improved care for millions of New Yorkers,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “The waiver should absolutely be extended. These are exactly the kind of solutions we need right now. It is common sense.”

Central Assisted Living could not be reached for comment.

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