2012-03-23 / Columnists

East End Matters...

PHC: A Sinking Ship?; New District Lines
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

The hospital intends to bounce back and serve the community better than it’s ever been.” Those are the words of Todd Miller, the CEO of Peninsula Hospital when he appeared before Community Board 14 on March 14. Of course we know now that when he made that appearance he was no longer in charge of the hospital. Three hours prior to his speaking to CB 14 a trustee was appointed to take over the operations of the hospital. Now, as reported in the Daily News on Tuesday, that trustee – Lori Lapin Jones – may be making a decision that will make it harder for the hospital to come back.

Peninsula is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association as a teaching hospital. The paper reported that Jones wants to lay off 78 residents to save money. The residents are trying to stay one step ahead of Jones by asking the American Osteopathic Association to revoke the hospital’s credentials as a teaching hospital. The young doctors are concerned that being laid off would adversely affect their training. Milap Patel told the Daily News, “If we all get laid off, my training gets messed up.” Another said that PHC was a “sinking ship” and “Our education is in jeopardy.”

By the way, if the residents are laid off PHC will still keep the monies the federal government provided for the training program.

Another point of concern occurred on March 16 when, according to the website Crain’s Health Pulse, PHC laid off more employees, including 100 from 1199 SEIU. This is in addition to approximately 240 previously laid off staff earlier this month.

When PHC does reopen, staffing will not be what it was before. Who will replace all these people? Miller told CB 14 that “hopefully” there would be no gearing up time to reopen the hospital” once it gets the state’s approval. It is hard to see how that will be. Crain’s asserts that with the physician-residency program being closed down and more workers laid off, this closure is starting to look permanent.

None of this is music to the ears of the community that needs PHC. While there are problems, they must be fixed. Rockaway cannot survive with just one hospital. With PHC not accepting any patients, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital is already becoming overwhelmed. Word is that ambulances have already been diverted from St. John’s.

Unfortunately, Jones is not necessarily charged with saving PHC. She is there to manage the hospital, and – according to USC, 1104 (b) – “the operation of the debtor’s business and if necessary file a plan of reorganization.”

A PHC board meeting was scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the resident program. And representatives from the American Osteopathic Association were due to meet with hospital administrators on Wednesday.

These cost cutting measures could, if the PHC does reopen, wind up endangering patients. No amount of savings can justify that. Then again, these actions could be signaling the permanent closure of the hospital. For Rockaway residents that would be devastating.

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Constituents can only shake their heads at the new district lines that have just been approved. Malcolm Smith is out as Rockaway’s’ lone state senator. We will now be represented by State Senators Joseph Addabbo (District 15) and Shirley Huntley (District 10). As advocated recently in this column when the changes were first proposed, Rockaway is only taking a step back by going from being united under one senator to having two. While Addabbo has previous experience as a city councilman for the west end, Huntley should be a fish out of water representing the bay side of the east end that goes just past the Cross Bay Bridge.

The Assembly is still divided between Michele Titus (District 31) and Phillip Goldfeder (District 23).

There are slight changes in these lines that give Goldfeder more of the east end. Titus retains area on the bay side from Edgemere to Hammels. But she also has a small area right in the middle of Goldfeder’s district on the east end. The map to be found elsewhere in this issue will make it clearer. This makes no sense. Rockaway should be represented by one assemblyperson and one state senator. The whole east end versus west end thing, which began years ago as a result of redistricting, is only perpetuated by these lines. Some day those charged with doing the redistricting will get it right and mean it when they say that redistricting will be done in a sane way. For now, the false hope of many this year that redrawn lines such as these would not stand has blown away like sand on Rockaway’s beach.

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