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Chairman urges calls to governor

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If residents want to keep Victory Memorial Hospital, they need to speak up about it. That was the recommendation of Community Board 11 chair Bill Guarinello as he encouraged fellow board members to tell the Department of Health and other state agencies about the hospital’s importance to the community. “Everyone should be calling the governor,” he said. “The lion has to be woken up and told that something needs to be done when it comes to Victory Memorial Hospital.” Thanks to years of fiscal mismanagement and a crushing mention in the state’s Berger Commission report that the hospital should be shut down, the Bay Ridge Hospital is on life support, said Guarinello, who also acts as chairman of the hospital’s board of trustees. “Right now, it’s a very tenuous situation. We could close any second,” he said when contacted by this newspaper. “It’s all dependent on the State Department of Health. They have to pull the trigger. If there is anyone out there concerned about health care in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge, they should speak up now.” The Berger Commission last year recommended that nine hospitals around the state be closed, including Victory. Its recommendations were approved by the State Legislature and the Governor. Assemblymember Peter Abbate, who also attended Thursday’s Community Board 11 meeting, told members that neither he nor his colleague never directly voted in favor of shutting down Victory, although they did vote in favor of a much larger bill that the Berger Commision’s report was folded into. “We backed the formation of the commission, but we’re against its report,” he said. Under Berger, the 254-bed hospital, which is currently bankrupt and is more than $90 million in debt, must close by June 2008. If Victory Memorial were to close, patients would be diverted to neighboring hospitals including Lutheran and Maimonides Medical Centers. Victory currently logs about 17,000 emergency room visits and performs 11,000 operations each year. Opponents of the Victory shutdown say the other hospitals are already at capacity and would be unable to handle to the extra patients. As he waits for the State Department of Health to put the final nail in the hospital’s coffin, Guarinello said that he and other hospital advocates are doing everything they can to breathe life into the floundering hospital. As some elected officials have filed Article 78 proceedings against the Department of Health, other advocates are tinkering with the idea of putting forth legislation that would remove Victory Memorial Hospital from the Berger Commission’s closure list. Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny, whose district encompasses Victory Memorial Hospital, said that the idea to put forth a bill that would spare Victory Memorial Hospital “has come to mind.” He said that he and other legislators are “taking all of the necessary steps to make sure that the facility maintains its current operations or is adjusted so it could be improved.” “We want to ensure that the hospital stays open,” he said.

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