2012-05-04 / Front Page

DOH Meeting On PHC Closure

Timing Stirs Community Ire
By Howard Schwach


Three local politicians, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Congressman Bob Turner and City Councilman Eric Ulrich speak to the participants in a Sunday demonstration demanding that the state’s DOH hold a hearing on PHC as required by law. Three local politicians, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Congressman Bob Turner and City Councilman Eric Ulrich speak to the participants in a Sunday demonstration demanding that the state’s DOH hold a hearing on PHC as required by law. 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.”


Liz Sulik, former Director of External Affairs for the hospital, urges the DOH to hold a community meeting. Liz Sulik, former Director of External Affairs for the hospital, urges the DOH to hold a community meeting. Roslyn Heights? Far away on the north shore of Long Island. Not even in the right county.

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.”


A group of nurses show their ire over the Department of Health and the shuttering of the hospital. A group of nurses show their ire over the Department of Health and the shuttering of the hospital. The state answered that objection by stating that Commissioner Nirav R. Shah would be present at the meeting and that the early time was the only way he could personally attend the meeting.

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.


100 Precinct Community Council President Danny Ruscillo. 100 Precinct Community Council President Danny Ruscillo. On Sunday, April 29, a few dozen people gathered in front of the shuttered hospital at 1 p.m. to listen to local politicians and those with ties to the hospital demand that a meeting be held.

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.


Former board member Steve Greenberg outlines the problems caused by the closing. Former board member Steve Greenberg outlines the problems caused by the closing. “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.


Prior to the press conference, nurses and other staff members confer. Prior to the press conference, nurses and other staff members confer. There have been reports of several deaths that occurred while patients were on the way to hospitals off the peninsula, but The Wave has not been able to corroborate any of those stories.



Congressman Turner speaks to the crowd. Congressman Turner speaks to the crowd.

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