2012-04-20 / Columnists

East End Matters . . .

SJEH Should Take Over PHC; Deny Levine Big Payday; Hamill, Smith Wrong
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

Now that the trustee for Peninsula Hospital Center has returned the hospital’s operating certificate to the state it makes it harder to reopen as a free standing hospital. It is past time for St. John’s Episcopal Hospital to step in and take over. The community needs both institutions and SJEH is in a perfect position to run the combined effort. Lives depend on these actions and there can be no more delay.

Meanwhile, the list of suspects who hold some responsibility for the closing is long. Was it MediSys Health Network that, along with the former CEO Robert Levine, ran the hospital into the ground, as many believe? Did the Department of Health really not want PHC to remain open, as some charge? Was it Revival Health, despite the fact they invested heavily in the hospital in the last few months? Did the 1199 SEIU union want the money PHC owed it more than it wanted jobs for its members? Or was it the fault of the court appointed trustee Lori Lapin Jones, who closed the hospital as soon as her appointment became official despite telling employees she would do all she could to save Peninsula?

While PHC had been, according to one doctor who asked to remain anonymous, suffering from monetary problems for at least 10 years, many former employees believe the down fall of the hospital lies with MediSys and Levine. Now insult is being added to injury. Levine, who resigned from PHC in September, landed on his feet two months later by becoming chief operating officer at the MediSys-run Flushing Hospital Medical Center. According to an article in Tuesday’s Daily News, the former PHC CEO is asking for $1.2 million from Peninsula Hospital in bankruptcy court for, among other things, severance pay and termination of contract. This seems odd considering the fact that it was he who resigned from PHC, thus terminating their contract.

In that article former PHC Nurse Mary Kampa said, “The devastation that he [Levine] left behind – he’s got some gall. He has a nice cushy job while everyone is out of jobs.”

Dr. Wayne Dodakian, a former fellow at Peninsula, believes Levine should giveth, not taketh. “He ran the hospital into the ground. He should return his salary for the last five years,” Dodakian said. “He was one of the worst things to ever happen to Peninsula.”

Levine’s request for money from the very facility that these employees say he ruined is, well as former PHC nurse MaryLiz Grosse said, “Unbelievable.”

The closing of the hospital could mean life or death as ambulances that are diverted from St. John’s are sent elsewhere. More than 800 employees, many of them our neighbors, have lost their jobs because of PHC’s closure. These are the people we need to concern ourselves about.

The bankruptcy court should see the foolishness of Levine’s claim and deny it.

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Two weeks ago Daily News columnist Denis Hamill wrote the article “Far Rock Forecast: Deadly” concerning the lack of open beaches on the east end and somehow tying it in with gang violence on the peninsula.

Hamill should know work is being done to curb the gang violence, by among others Councilman James Sanders Jr. and his chief of staff, Donovan Richards; and Operation S.N.U.G. The 101 Precinct is also making inroads in the gang problem. Also, Mr. Hamill, we have a local trade – healthcare.

Also in the March 25 article, Citizens of Rockaways’ Floyd Smith asserts that Rockaway youth have no place to go in the summer but the beach. Mr. Smith, you should know better. Have you been to the new skateboard park that opened last year on Seagirt Boulevard and Beach 11 Street yet? It is packed every day with youth. Did you know that besides the skateboard rink there is rock climbing, basketball and handball? All this is part of our new Rockaway East Park. The baseball field is still open on Beach 17 Street.

Smith is also one of many who charge beach closings on the east end is the fault of the Parks Department. There are nesting areas on Rockaway Beach cordoned off each summer to protect the piping plover. This is federally mandated and has nothing to do with Parks. Curiously, there are some who call themselves environmentalists yet say that this is our beach, find someplace else for the plover. These animals must be respected and preserved. That means sharing the beach with the piping plovers and other wildlife on Rockaway’s beaches.

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