2011-08-26 / Columnists

East End Matters

Peninsula Hospital Shutdown Wrong!
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

It was eerie Monday night as I came out from covering a meeting at the Peninsula rehabilitation facility next to Peninsula Hospital. Every floor of the hospital, except the first, was totally dark, and it was only 8:15 in the evening. Was this the beginning of the end for Peninsula Hospital? Well, that was on August 22. As I write this in the early morning hours of August 24 the state Department of Health has ordered PHC to stop receiving patients, and ambulances are now being diverted to other hospitals. Patients must be either transferred or discharged “as vendor actions affect supplies and services at the hospital, including the delivery of intravenous fluids, laundry supplies, operating room supplies and garbage services,” the health department states.

Late in the afternoon on Tuesday a department of health spokesperson is reported to have said, “The Department is continuing to have discussions with members of the Peninsula Hospital board and potential investors regarding possible strategies that would preserve the hospital.”

The DOH said the shutdown was “Out of concern for patient safety and as a result of recent changes in the financial status of Peninsula Hospital Center that make it difficult for the hospital to meet minimum standards required by the State Hospital Code, on Tuesday the New York State Department of Health advised the hospital to take several actions to protect patient health and safety.”

Unfortunately the hospital board, who originally voted for PHC to go into bankruptcy, was hampered by the affiliation with MediSys who preferred closure. Once the PHC board rescinded its closure plans, MediSys gave a 10-day notice it would end its affiliation with the hospital – something that became effective on Monday. Meanwhile the board of PHC has reported to have been working well into the night for the last two weeks to find a way to keep the hospital from closing. Board member Joseph Mure has said there are several investor groups interested in saving the hospital. At the same time, an involuntary Chapter 11 petition was filed late last week by creditors who are owed $127,204. This was to keep PHC open until the separation from MediSys became official and the board could work independently to save the hospital. Yet, according to Crain’s NewYorkBusiness.com “one employee [of PHC] reported that DOH started closing the hospital at midday [on Monday], issuing orders to discharge all patients.”

Finally, Crain’s reports that the DOH has ordered that the emergency department be closed as of August 24. That is where we now stand. Are the actions by the DOH, as was suggested by 1010 WINS radio, the actual and final act of shutting down Peninsula Hospital from which there is no return? By the time this is published the answer to that may be known.

In October 2010 then-Governor David Paterson signed a bill that requires the Health Commissioner to hold a “community forum” within 30 days after a hospital is shut down to hear from the community. The Commissioner must also release a written report, no timetable given on that, addressing the anticipated impact of the closure to the community, and how the DOE plans to lessen those effects. The original version of that bill, which Paterson vetoed, would have required a public hearing be held within 30 days of a proposed hospital closing.

Well, there is no doubt that over the last few weeks the community has made the negative impact of closing PHC very clear. A conversation I had with a great-grandmother of a now 3 ½- year-old girl brings it home. At the Day of Rage rally at PHC on August 13, Kathy Mallon of Beach 122 Street talked about her great-granddaughter, Pianna Bouderau, who lives with her. When the girl was just over one year old, “she had a seizure in the house and four in the ambulance on the way here [to Peninsula Hospital]. She would have never have made it to Far Rockaway [and St. John’s Hospital].”

This rush to closure has happened too fast without regard for the lives it will affect. Rockaway residents have made their feelings known. We need Peninsula Hospital Center to remain open. Plain and simple, lives depend on it.

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