2012-07-13 / Top Stories

Department of Health Issues PHC Post Mortem

With Drugs And Innards Gone, Medical Records Next
By Howard Schwach

Peninsula Hospital Center died because of declining patient activity, massive financial problems that were exacerbated under the management of MediSys, and the failure of the hospital to maintain a mandated level of patient care and equipment maintenance.

That’s the finding of the state’s Department of Health in a post mortem report issued on Wednesday, a report mandated by state law.

According to state statistics, 22,140 Rockaway residents were admitted to hospitals in 2010. A substantial portion of those residents, the report says, went to hospitals outside of Rockaway, with 13.5 percent going to Nassau County hospitals, 9.5 percent to Brooklyn, 8.3 percent to Manhattan and another 12.7 percent to other Queens hospitals off the peninsula.

While 87.3 percent of the hospital’s patients were from Rockaway zip codes, the report says, PHC served only 20.8 percent of the market.

The hospital’s inpatient volume declined steadily from a high of 5,707 patients in 2004 to 5,267 in 2010. The average daily census dropped to 72 in 2010 from 118 in 2005, a drop of almost 39 percent, the report says. In addition, use of the hospital’s emergency room dropped to 22,000 visits a year in 2010 from a high if 26,430 in 2005.

According to the report, “PHC’s debt and ongoing operational losses compromised patient safety as well as basic hospital operations. PHC was unable to meet payroll to retain adequate staffing, could not pay vendors providing such services as intravenous fluids, laundry services, operating room supplies or garbage removal.” Now that the hospital is closed, DOH says that it will continue to monitor a grant that will assist both St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center pick up the slack after approvals from the state.

The state agency adds that it will work to develop a regional health plan for the Rockaways.

Aside from the state report, with all of the unused medications sold to a Long Island medical company and with furniture, machinery and equipment trucked away in past weeks, Lori Lapin Jones, the trustee appointed by the Federal Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York, has asked permission to hire a company to pick up, index, sort, store and eventually destroy nearly 20,000 boxes of medical records from the shuttered Peninsula Hospital Center.

Jones plans to hire CitiStorage to handle all of the former hospital’s medical and radiological records from the past 20 years, eventually making them available to former patients.

“The trustee believes that it is both necessary and appropriate to address the custody and storage of patient records at this time,” she wrote to judge Elizabeth Stong in her motion. “In accordance with the court’s order, a public liquidation sale of PHC’s machinery, furniture and equipment was conducted on June 27 and the trustee is continuing the wind down of PHC and will ultimately need to vacate the property.”

Most of the records are now stored at PHC, but CitiStorage already has more than 16,000 boxes of records and MediSys, the healthcare giant that ran PHC until it walked away early last summer, still has more than 2,000 boxes.

Jones told the court that she will notify former patients of how to access their records in three ways: by updating the hospital’s website with the information; by adding the information to the former hospital’s telephone message and by posting signs around the property.

Those who want their records will have to fill out a number of forms required by the federal HIPAA law and will have to pay an undetermined copying fee, officials say.

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