2012-04-27 / Top Stories

New Knight Errant For PHC

By Howard Schwach

Dr. Evans, right with State Senator Shirley Huntley, who is backing his take-over of the shuttered Peninsula Hospital Center. Dr. Evans, right with State Senator Shirley Huntley, who is backing his take-over of the shuttered Peninsula Hospital Center. The last white knight, who rode in from Chicago last month, failed to slay the dragon and the Peninsula Hospital Center was closed down by the fair maiden, Lori Lapin Jones, the Chapter 11 Trustee now in complete control of the shuttered facility.

Now comes a knight errant from Queens who, with the backing of State Senator Shirley Huntley, seeks to slay the sleeping dragon, charm the fair maiden and reopen the hospital. His name is Dr. Robert Evans, the president and founder of the Community Wellness Centers of America and Equinox Electronic Medical Records, organizations that seem on the face of it to have one walk-in medical facility at the sprawling Rochdale Village housing complex in Jamaica. Evans says that he and his organization have “the expertise, resources and affiliations with medical institutions, medical schools and local physicians to systematically integrate the hospital’s services into a community wide program and provide the State of New York with relief from further financial burden and loss of critically needed hospital services.”

On its website, Community Wellness Centers says that it focuses on clinical treatment of chronic illness and diseases, preventative screenings and education programs. There is nothing about running a hospital on its website, except for a news release that it has hired Richard Wildzunas as its Chief Operating Officer. In that release, it says that Wildzunas has experience that includes “20 years as a senior executive in a medical center of 695 beds.”

While the website does not name that hospital, an interview with Wildzunas revealed that the 20 years were spent at the Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, New Jersey, where he oversaw all clinical and oversight aspects of the hospital. His focus, he says, is on keeping people healthy so that they do not need the services of a traditional hospital. “If people do not get sick, they don’t need hospitals,” he told us. “This has been proved throughout the nation. If you correctly address chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart problems, then hospitals become less necessary.”

The COO says that he has been in detailed discussions with Jones, but that he could not discuss them.

“There are strict confidentiality and non-disclosure strictures when you are dealing with the bankruptcy court,” he said, adding that he could not even comment on whether or not he was confident that they could work out a deal.

He did say, however, that his company has “the financial resources to proceed further” with the takeover of the hospital. He envisions a series of walkin clinics such as the one in Jamaica, a full-scale emergency room with triage capability and a state-of-the-art clinical laboratory. “I am a strong advocate of patient safety,” he adds. “I would never have tolerated what happened at PHC and I am in favor of strict adherence to state regulations.”

In the Jamaica facility, Evans and Wildzunas have worked closely with State Senator Shirley Huntley, who will soon represent most of the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula, and who is under investigation in connection with a non-profit organization she funds that employs some of her relatives and seems not to have accomplished its mission of working with public school parents. Huntley recently submitted a plan drafted by Evans to the state’s Department of Health.

In that report, entitled “Integration of a Cost Effective Healthcare Plan for Jamaica, Queens, New York,” Evans’ healthcare plan “will develop evidencebased preventive care supported by electronic health record technologies, and provide a full spectrum of integrated services and programs that are easily accessible; eliminate health disparities; increase the quality of health care to its residents, reduce healthcare costs and fraud and abuse, and incorporate recommendations from the Medicaid redesign team.” The report focuses on “walk-in healthcare facilities” such as the one in Rochdale Village, rather than hospitals as a cost-saving measure.

Any move to take over and reopen the hospital would have to go through the bankruptcy trustee, who has said that she will sell off the assets or “repurpose it as a health care facility.”

On April 18, Jones issued her second report to the court. In it, she said, “The trustee is presently continuing to address ancillary issues related to the closing of the hospital and is exploring a sale of the hospital’s assets, which may include the repurposing of the hospital in the healthcare field. Towards this end, the Trustee has retained a broker to market the debtor’s assets.” At the same time, creditors continue to file motions asking for money from the bankruptcy court, including at least two who recently won malpractice judgments from the state court and another who had just filed suit. The firm that Jones hired to dispose of the hospitals assets, Loeb & Troper, LLC, has issued a Request for Proposals of sorts to those involved in the healthcare industry.

Those proposals were due back to Jones on April 23. Her office is not talking, however, about whether or not any responses were received.

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