Today’s news:

Queens consultant buys Forest Hills hospital for $23M

Herb Schwartz, the hospital's owner, finalized the deal to transfer the ownership to Aquino in late June.

"I am extremely excited about the opportunity to work with the existing staff, together with new physicians, to build upon the success of the hospital through the provision of high-quality medical care to the community," Aquino said in a statement released by the hospital.

Aquino was appointed chairman, chief financial officer and president of the 251-bed private hospital. In addition to his new role, Aquino serves as chief executive officer, president and the owner of Capitol Health Management Inc., a consulting group in Long Island City; Boro Medical PC, a professional corporation in Astoria; and Boulevard Surgical Center, an ambulatory surgery center in Long Island City. He is also a former president of the Queens County Medical Society.

According to Parkway, "Aquino expects to solidify relations with the attending medical staff and attract many new active physicians to the hospital."

As the community hospital adjusts to its new ownership, Forest Hills activist Estelle Chwat expressed the need for patience within the community.

"It is going to be a fine hospital. We have to be patient. We have to give the new owners a chance," said Chwat, a former public relations representative for Parkway.

Aquino and hospital executives were working to add several clinical programs as well as to raise funds to finance the hospital's capitol improvements.

The change in ownership came after the hospital workers union, Local 1199, froze Parkway's bank accounts in February while it tried to negotiate a repayment plan to recoup $10.5 million owed to the union by Parkway, the TimesLedger reported in March. The hospital had failed to make five months of payments to the union because it did not receive the funds expected from Medicare and Medicaid.

Employees were in danger of losing their health insurance and pension funds. An agreement was reached with the union in March.

A similar problem occurred just prior to Aquino's acquisition of Parkway, and 1199 alerted its members that their health-care benefits might have to be revoked by July 8 due to insufficient funding. But with Aquino in charge, such issues appear to have been resolved with payroll problems said to be fixed since earlier this month.

Local 1199 did not respond to requests for comment on the new ownership.

"Every hospital has problems and this unfortunately has been on a slide for a while," Chwat said. Chwat, along with her husband, Norbert, is co-president of the Forest Hills Action League, a not-for-profit civic and educational association.

But she was relieved Parkway hospital would not be in danger of closing.

"I am very grateful that the hospital has not closed. We must have hospitals here for the over 200,000 people in this vicinity. It is needed desperately."

Reach editorial intern Jennifer Misthal by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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