Lawmakers: Keep St. John's, Mary Immaculate Hospitals Open
Three Queens lawmakers have called upon the state Health Department to cancel plans to close two hospitals in this borough, citing the need for the facilities to continue providing healthcare services for area residents.
State Senator Toby Stavisky said the Department of Health (DOH) must decide quickly on a plan to keep St. John's Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica open because they might otherwise be out of business shortly.
Congressmember Anthony Weiner asked for a 90-day reprieve to delay the DOH's plans and City Councilmember James Gennaro pleaded with Governor David Paterson to scrap the closing plans because they would "irreparably damage our local economy and send Queens back to the medical Stone Age".
The DOH set off the panic when it requested Caritas Health Care Inc., owner of the two hospitals, to prepare a closure plan for both.
Stavisky (D- Flushing) said the hospitals had already received $44 million in state funding to remain open, but without further financial assistance both are expected to close as soon as February.
Weiner said both hospitals have filed for bankruptcy and are currently awaiting additional temporary state financial aid to continue operating.
In calling for a 90-day reprieve from the DOH, Weiner said during that period a restructuring plan could be devised.
According to the lawmakers, the two hospitals, which serve low- to middleincome populations, combined have 400 beds and nursing home facilities and employ between 2,500 and 3,000 employees, who stand to lose their jobs, which would hurt the local economies, surrounding the hospitals. Gennaro said the hospital closing would force some small businesses to close also, creating more lost jobs.
Gennaro (D- Fresh Meadows) said in a letter to Paterson and the DOH that Mary Immaculate Hospital, which is in his district, is a Level-One Trauma Center which treated approximately 8,000 acute-care discharges last year and another 1,800 behavioral health discharges, plus handling 42,250 emergency room visits and 65,000 outpatient visits.
"These figures clearly demonstrate the necessity of this hospital," Gennaro said. "Mary Immaculate is also the only hospital in Community District 12, a working-class community with a higher-than-average need for health services and preventive health care."
Stavisky (D- Flushing) said it would be "catastrophic" for Southeast Queens to lose its only trauma center, in Mary Immaculate Hospital.
Mary Immaculate also offers cancer care and inpatient detoxification and psychiatric treatment, Stavisky said.
The closure would not only cut off patients from these vital services and increase the demands on services at the borough's remaining facilities, but would mean that the two hospitals' 3,000 employees would face unemployment in this difficult economy.
Weiner said, "Every Queens resident deserves quality, affordable health care. The closing of St. John's and Mary Immaculate Hospitals would be too great a loss. We must give them a lifeboat so that they can continue to provide excellent care that residents have been receiving for decades."
Recently, Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills became a Healthcare Facility that does not offer in-patient care.