2011-06-03 / Columnists

East End Matters...

Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

First, before I get into this I want to make sure that everyone understands that in no way am I saying that Peninsula Hospital Center is anywhere close to closing up shop or that a merger is imminent. The reason I say this is because, according to sources at the hospital, whenever The Wave prints news of troubles at the hospital, panic sets in. For the record, Peninsula’s CEO, Robert Levine, during a meeting with State Senator Malcolm Smith not too long ago, assured the legislator that Peninsula is not closing.

With all of that said, in 2006 the Berger Commission recommended that St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and Peninsula merge because of overlapping services.

“The goal [of the Berger Commission] was to cut beds,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall during a visit to SJEH recently. “Queens doesn’t have enough beds.”

That rings true for Rockaway. There are approximately 123,000 people living in the 10 miles (including Breezy Point) that make up the peninsula. SJEH has 257 beds while PHC has 173 beds. That’s 430 beds for the whole area. Instead of talking closing, things must be done to make our two hospital facilities as healthy as possible and make sure that locals are not averse to using them.

Of course, this newspaper has been documenting the financial problems at PHC for a while now. The most recent development is, as told to me by a doctor who practices at Peninsula, that the union – SEIU 1199 – has requested that the governor and elected officials get involved to get PHC to merge with SJEH. While talks concerning that have been going on since the Berger Commission Report, no merger is on the horizon. What should be worked out, without closing a facility or jobs lost, is how the two hospitals can work together to improve the health care in Rockaway.

Without doubt SJEH is financially the healthier of the two hospitals. But both facilities are working to bring increased services to Rockaway’s residents and make them aware that the services and quality of care for which they travel off the peninsula is in their own backyards. SJEH is increasing its women’s services with the first digital mammography unit in the Rockaways and new advanced bone density machine. Peninsula Hospital can tout a Stroke Center that includes the Traumatic Brain Injury/Stroke Rehab-ilitation Unit. While each hospital is advancing, according to their websites, it is easier to count what they don’t have in common than what they do have in common.

There are some very distinct differences. For example, SJEH has a wound center, while PHC treats traumatic brain injuries; PHC has a dentistry program, while SJEH has obstetrics and dialysis services. But whether it is their similarities or their differences, both of these facilities are vital to the well being of the Rockaways. Working together they could expand their reach.

Both hospitals cite the overwhelming use of the emergency room for non-emergencies. In Central Florida they have what is called Centra Care. It is a walk-in service that provides doctors for adults and children for non-life threatening ailments. There are 20 of them across the area. They are open 7 days a week, some until midnight. By the way, this isn’t something that I just Googled and thought it would be great for this story. I wound up as a patient at one of these facilities last summer. Even then I thought what a great thing this type of medical facility was. Working together, St. John’s and Peninsula could make a venture like this a reality here in the Rockaways. Doctors from both hospitals could be involved, and it might actually create new jobs in the medical field on our peninsula.

Next, the hospitals still have to increase their community outreach to convince the public that the days of not trusting care at either of the Rockaway hospitals are long gone. And yes, there are still people out there who need to be convinced that the two hospitals deserve your business.

Rockaway is, without a doubt, a two-hospital town. St. John’s and Peninsula should check their egos at the door and work out new ways to help residents of the peninsula.

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