Marshall Decries Shuttered Hospitals
With St. John's Queens Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica closing by the end of the month, Borough President Helen Marshall has announced she will lead an effort to fill the loss in health care.
"I have been asked by Governor [David] Paterson to head a task force to replace Mary Immaculate and St. John's," she said at a joint meeting of the Queens Borough Cabinet and the Queens Chamber of Commerce. "That's no easy task."
Marshall said elective admissions to the two hospitals would end as of February 14. The Caritas Board of Trustees, which administers St. John's and Mary Immaculate, voted to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on February 6. That action also required a closing plan for the hospitals be submitted to the city Department of Health.
In 2006, Marshall established a task force for a comprehensive and sustainable healthcare delivery system in Queens based on the findings of a report she commissioned and presented to the Berger Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century.
"Queens is under-bedded," said Marshall, speaking at the LaGuardia Marriott on February 10. "The closest hospitals to St. John's and Mary Immaculate are doubled up and bursting at the seams. Health care is in a crisis."
St. John's and Mary Immaculate together have about 450 beds. Parkway Hospital, which was closed last year on the recommendation of the Berger Commission, had 250 beds. Marshall said statistics show Queens, with more than 2.3 million residents, has 1.4 hospital beds per 1,000 individuals while Manhattan, with a population of 1.5 million, has 7.1 beds per 1,000 residents.
"On any given day 1,400 Queens residents are in a hospital outside of Queens," she said. "We must provide quality health care for every single citizen in our borough."
Mary Immaculate Hospital is a Level 1 trauma center and also houses a Cancer Institute and a 115-bed nursing home. St. John's Queens Hospital is a certified stroke and heart failure center, which has the only hyperbaric oxygen therapy unit in Queens.
Marshall said the trauma center at Mary Immaculate had an average of 50,000 visits per year. St. John's had 48,000 emergency room visits in 2008.
With unemployment in Queens jumping to 6.5 percent in December, Marshall said the borough was about to lose another 2,500 jobs. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, St. John's and Mary Immaculate actually had 2,917 employees. "Many, many businesses will be affected by these hospitals closing," said Marshall.
On a more positive note, Marshall said Willets Point and Hunters Point South were moving ahead. "Construction is the engine that drives the economy," she said.
"What about construction of new hospitals?" asked John Kump, director of marketing for Mount Sinai Hospital of Queens.
Among the recommendations in her 2006 report, Marshall called for two new hospitals in Queens, one on the western waterfront of the borough and another centrally located in the Rockaways.
"Setting up a hospital is a very expensive venture," Marshall said.