2011-07-29 / Editorial/Opinion

Too Necessary To Close Its Doors

To those who have been paying attention for the past year or so, it came as no surprise that the Peninsula Hospital Center will close its doors for good sometime before the end of the year. The vital hospital has been in trouble for a long time, failing to pay its bills, its suppliers, the health care of its union workers. Still, there came the shock of recognition that more than 120,000 people would then have only one hospital to serve its emergency medical needs, and that the one hospital is miles and vital minutes away from a large portion of the peninsula’s population. The hospital owes the union health plan, its suppliers and its utilities tens of millions of dollars. It is clear that nobody has the money to provide a way out for Peninsula – not the city, not the state, not the feds. It is also clear that any hospital that tries to take over PHC would have to immediately take on that massive debt obligation. We doubt that any hospital would have the wherewithal to do that. In addition, there are nearly 1,000 jobs at the center. Officials say that nearly 700 of those jobs are held by Rockaway residents. That massive unemployment may well destroy what is left of Rockaway’s buying power. So, what happens next? St. John’s Episcopal Hospital says that it can take over the inpatient care now being done by PHC. Officials say St. John’s could take up to 300 workers who lose their PHC jobs. That is a start. Nobody, however, wants the out-patient, emergency and ambulatory care that is now the hospital center’s mainstay. Those services are too costly and bring in little reward. Those services are too necessary for the health and welfare of Rockaway’s residents to close down. St. John’s is simply too far from the far west end for a heart attack victim to travel for immediate care. The hospitals in Brooklyn and central Queens are even farther. Our political leaders will have to work out a solution, and quickly. There is no way we can allow PHC to close its doors.

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