2012-05-25 / Letters

DOH Punishes PHC

Dear Editor,

I am here as a resident of Rockaway for 54 years. During that time Peninsula Hospital has been there for me and my family. When my father suffered a heart attack in his doctor’s office, he followed doctor’s orders and drove to the emergency room at Peninsula. He came home after a week and lived another 30 years.

When my wife fell and fractured her pelvis and wrist, the ambulance took her to Peninsula where she was treated in the emergency room and hospital. After a week I was able to help move her in a wheelchair to the rehab facility next door to complete her therapy and recovery. I have been to Peninsula Hospital for two hernia operations and several radiological tests.

We have given back to Peninsula. My stepmother volunteered helping patients and working in the gift shop. When new nurses from the Philippines were hired my father was able to help them get apartments in a nearby coop.

Now I am here in an effort to show the State Health Department that they have made a series of terrible mistakes leading to the closure of the hospital depriving over 130,000 residents of the Rockaway peninsula and nearby areas of adequate health care.

New York State has been making efforts to control the rising cost of health care for years. Governor Pataki appointed the Berger Commission which recommended the closure of some hospitals. They stated, “We see the value of community hospitals and they should not be abandoned or unnecessarily targeted for closure. They tend to be low cost providers and appear to provide acceptable quality of services.”

Peninsula Hospital has been providing adequate care for our community for 104 years. The evidence shows that failures by two management groups and the State Department of Health, not by the nurses, doctors, staff or patients, is responsible for the current closure.

A few years ago the Peninsula Board, in an effort to improve the financial position and services at Peninsula, joined with the Medisys Health System. Medisys President and CEO David Rosen was known as a leader in the field and for his success in obtaining visible improvements at Jamaica Hospital. Now he is known for his conviction for bribery of State Senator

Carl Kruger, Assemblymen William

Boyland and Tony Seminerio, who were convicted of accepting bribes. Jamaica got a new Nursing and Rehab Center, new 64 slice CT Scan and a Trauma Center under this arrangement. If Jamaica got benefits from this arrangement did Peninsula suffer from it? All parties were under the supervision of the State Department of Health which must approve any major improvement in health facilities.

By the Summer of 2011, Peninsula was close to bankruptcy. Medisys tried to close the hospital but the local Board of Directors reached out for help. Revival Home Health Care offered to provide an $8 million line of credit and assume liabilities of up to $27 million, in exchange for control of the hospital.

According to Crain’s New York Business of November 6, 2011, the NYS DOH had no objection. “DOH did not formally review the Peninsula deal because it maintains that no change in ownership was involved. The deal installed Todd Miller as Peninsula’s president.”

Steven Zakheim has been the principal decision maker in Revival for years. He has a long history of legal difficulties in the health care field, ranging from sex abuse to a $32 million Medicaid fraud scheme. “Mr. Zakheim is considered so toxic by state Department of Health officials that they required him to sign an affidavit in June 2005 that stated he would not have any involvement in Revival Home Health Care’s operations or finances – a commitment that is still in effect.”

During the fall of 2011 it became clear to those involved in Peninsula that Steven Zakheim is very definitely involved in Peninsula’s operation despite the fiction that his wife, Faye Zakheim, was the only family member involved.

Maybe Mr. Zakheim’s active involvement in Peninsula’s operation came to the attention when it was reported in Crain’s on November 11, 2011. Peninsula’s end came soon after when Peninsula’s lab was found deficient.

Rather than sending in a temporary administrator, arranging for outsourcing lab tests, or giving reasonable time to make improvements, it appears administrators at the DOH used this failure to essentially close the hospital. When lab workers worked nights and weekends to refurbish the lab in record time, the DOH would not send an inspection team to verify their improvement.

If officials of DOH determined that the role of Steven Zakheim was not in the public interest, they could have ordered the hospital administration to exclude him from any contact, they could have notified the State Attorney General and U.S. Attorney to begin a legal investigation leading to criminal charges. Instead they punished the community and hospital employees by closing the hospital.

Now we are faced by a closed hospital and inadequate alternate facilities. There are reputable parties interested in operating all or part of the hospital. The State Health Department must immediately indicate its support of those who want to continue to serve our community. They must help broker arrangements among the applicants, unions, medical staff and other employees and creditors to help reopen the hospital under responsible management now. Considering the failures allowed by the State DOH in the past two years they owe this community that much.

The DOH in cooperation with the hospital staff who have information about possible fraud and mismanagement should bring these facts to law enforcement.


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