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Parkway sues state to stay open

The 251-bed hospital, which expects to emerge from bankruptcy protection by the end of March, is suing New York state to stay open after the state Berger Commission report issued in November recommended closing Parkway and four other area hospitals.The Forest Hills hospital is battling closure by emphasizing that it cannot be shut down before it comes out of bankruptcy, which it anticipates will happen by the end of March.Fred Stewart, Parkway's vice president of marketing, said the hospital filed the suit in early January. "We filed on the grounds that federal courts have grounds over state courts," he said.Bankruptcy is overseen by a federal court, whereas the Berger Commission was convened by New York Gov. George Pataki."We filed our plan Dec. 19, 2006, and it is now a consensual plan [with the hospital's creditors]," Stewart said about the hospital's reorganization plan."The court and our creditors have accepted the settlement offer. There will be a hearing to approve the plan Jan. 30, and after that we begin the 30- to 60-day process to emerge from bankruptcy," meaning that by the end of March the hospital will be out from under the protection of the bankruptcy courts, he said. The Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, a panel created by Pataki and the state Legislature to find ways to reduce New York's health care costs, issued the Berger Commission report at the end of November.The Parkway Hospital suit questions the constitutionality of the Berger Commission and also stresses that the facility is a private hospital where Medicare and Medicaid recipients account for less than 5 percent of the patients. Hence it receives very little money from the state and federal government. Of the four other New York City-area hospitals slated to close, Westchester Square Hospital in the Bronx and St. Vincent's Midtown in Manhattan have also sued the state to remain open.Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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