DOH Meeting On PHC Closure
It’s tough to have confidence in a state agency that just closed down a vital community facility without even checking it out in person and which then issues a statement placing your community dozens of miles and a county away.
But, that’s the state’s Department of Health.
On Monday evening, Peter Constantakes, a spokesperson for the state’s DOH put out a media advisory that said, in part, “The New York State Department of Health (DOH) will hold a forum for the purpose of providing an opportunity for the community to discuss health care services in the Roslyn Heights/Queens community following the closure of Peninsula Hospital.”
A second advisory, sent a few minutes later, attempted to correct the information, saying that the forum would be for the Rockaway/ Queens community, but adding that the forum would be held in Roslyn Heights.
Only 20 minutes later did the DOH get both parts of the media advisory correct.
Even the corrected advisory raised the ire of many of those who have been fighting for the survival of PHC. The meeting will be held on May 10, a Thursday, at 3 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 330 Beach 90 Street, according to the DOH.
“How can they hold a community meeting on a weekday at 3 p.m. and expect the community to attend,” asked one of the former PHC nurses when told of the meeting. “They should hold it on a weekend when people can attend or at least hold it at 7:30 or 8 p.m. so people can come after work.”
In addition, the DOH told local politicians that the Knights of Columbus Hall, a venue smaller than most of the peninsula’s school auditoriums, was the only room available on such short notice.
A state law passed in 2010 mandates that the state hold a community forum within 30 days of a hospital’s closing to provide information to residents in the local community on the impact of the closure and alternate options for healthcare services.
The press conference, called by Congressman Bob Turner and City Councilman Eric Ulrich, demanded that a meeting be set in a timely manner, even though Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder and others had already announced that the state told him it would set a meeting “within three weeks.”
At that press conference, Dr. Wayne Dodakian, a hospitalist at PHC, argued that the state guidelines set by the Berger Commission in 2007, set minimal healthcare numbers for specific communities. That report, which became law two years later, said about Rockaway, “It is recommended that Peninsula Hospital Center downsize by approximately 99 beds to 173 beds and that St. John’s Episcopal Hospital downsize by approximately 81 beds to 251 beds.
“Contingent on financing, it is recommended that Peninsula Hospital Center and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital merge and build a single facility with approximately 400 in-patient beds, and provide comprehensive emergency, inpatient, psychiatric and ambulatory services.”
With the closing of PHC, the peninsula has far fewer than the 400 beds recommended in the report, Dodakian said. St. John’s has approximately 257 beds.
And, its emergency room has already been placed in diversion by the city’s EMS several times because of overcrowding, with local patients being transported to Brookdale and Coney Island hospitals in Brooklyn rather than St. John’s.