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NYH’s St. Joseph’s

"The signature's not on the paper yet but we're encouraged," said Dr. Peter Heffer of New York Hospital Queens, who along with a handful of other physicians and nurses from various Queens hospitals, presented the St. Joseph's renovation proposal at a Community Board 8 meeting in October out of concern over dwindling services and overworked emergency rooms in Queens. The proposed center, which would handle mostly minor injuries and ailments, would be used to absorb some of the burden taken on by existing hospitals in Queens and Long Island after St. Joseph's closed in March.Dr. Patricia Thomas, of New York Hospital Queens, said they would give another presentation to CB 8 Wednesday, during which they will ask for a covenant from the board that would make the Flushing hospital property permanently designated for health care use.Heffer would not comment on who the financier was or how money much is involved but did say that if the backer signs on to the project, which is estimated to cost around $8 million, it would materialize. Funding was the group's major setback when it proposed the plan the first time. CB 8, which has always sided in favor of keeping the building as a health-care facility rather than converting it to condominiums, was supportive of the idea but doubtful of its likelihood to materialize given the current financial state of New York's health-care system. In July, St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, the state's largest Catholic health-care provider and umbrella company to St. Joseph's and several other hospitals, filed for bankruptcy protection, as did Forest Hill's Parkway Hospital.The group, comprised at the meeting of three physicians and two nurses from various area hospitals who have taken it upon themselves to open another Queens hospital to fill the dire need, propose several uses for the empty building at 159-05 Union Turnpike. Perhaps the most ambitious was creating an "Urgent Center," which would relieve actual emergency rooms of some of their patients who have less threatening or complicated problems, such as pneumonia or a broken leg, said Heffer, a cardiologist.Other ideas outlined in the group's plans include a 20- to 30-bed holding area for short-term patients, a 250-bed nursing home for more permanent stays, a wound-care center, a rehabilitation department and an ophthalmology surgery suite.Overall, the group's members have faith that the public will realize just how crucial reviving St. Joseph's is."If we lose this," said Eileen Miller, a nurse who worked at the Flushing Hospital for 15 years, "we won't ever get another hospital to open around here again."Reach reporter Zach Patberg at news@timesledger.com or at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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