2011-09-23 / Columnists

East End Matters...

PHC – Step One: Reorganization And Bankruptcy, Step Two: Gaining Patients’ Trust
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

Peninsula Hospital Center is saved! It will be managed by Revival Home Health Care, which took over control of the facility this month. As a condition of the deal with Revival, PHC has filed for bankruptcy on Monday. In addition, ru-mors that the for-profit Revival would change the status of PHC from not-for-profit to for-profit proved to be unfounded. But don’t rejoice so fast, there is still a lot of work to be done. It had been a roller coaster ride for the hospital and the community since the news broke in July that PHC could close in 90 days because of its financial problems.

Crain’s Business reported on September 20 that Todd Miller, who began the month as Peninsula’s chief restructuring officer and is now the new chief executive officer, said that Peninsula would “through a change in culture, marketing strategies and by feeding off synergies with Revival‘s related businesses” break even or become profitable. He added that the hospital and nursing home [Peninsula Center for Extended Care and Rehabilitation] – “with a new management team and fresh capital” – can boost revenue by attracting more patients. Yet, the same Crain’s article reported that about 80 percent of the Far Rockaway population, except for emergency use, goes outside of Rockaway to get health care.

That is where the problem lies. Not just for PHC, but for St. John’s Episcopal Hospital as well. There is a culture here on the peninsula that to get good, quality health care you have to leave Rockaway.

Before the possibility of closing reared its ugly head, PHC had just cut the ribbon on a new X-ray suite in the ER. It was also advertising new services. Now, according to the same article, Miller says that to bring in people to the hospital it will begin to provide new cardiac services, more types of surgery and better oncology services.

He told Community Board 14 this past Tuesday that, “We expect to reinvigorate Peninsula with programs and services to make your access [to health care better].”

Expanding services is one thing, getting people to trust in the hospital, as a whole, is another. The 80 percent who prefer to go off the peninsula for their health care needs is a telling story for both PHC and SJEH. Hospitals outside of Rockaway know the numbers, too. During the crisis that brought Peninsula close to closing, as SJEH was making plans to take over the work of PHC, hospitals on Long Island were advertising in The Wave to get your business. Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre and Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream both jumped on the news that PHC was closing.

It will take more than new or expanded services to make those people who continue to insist that, “I don’t trust or wouldn’t use either local hospital in Rockaway,” reverse their long held beliefs. St. John’s went into bankruptcy several years ago, was taken over by Episcopal Health Services and came out of the ordeal much stronger.

If things go right, the same will ring true for Peninsula. Time, outreach and keeping true to the concerns and health needs of those living in the Rockaways are vital.

During his appearance at this week’s CB 14 meeting, Miller said that Revival is committed to “outstanding healthcare and community healthcare.” On its website, Revival says, “We earn trust by keeping our commitments to patients, the community and each other.”

Thatis exactly what the doctor ordered. If Revival keeps its word, then we may be able to look back at fall 2011 as the point at which health care in the Rockaways began to change for the better.

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