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Forest Hills Hospital to investigate bias charges

Following complaints that Forest Hills Hospital has allegedly discriminated against its Russian-speaking Jewish patients and employees, the hospital has begun to investigate the matter, a hospital spokesman told Community Board 6 meeting last week.

Forest Hills resident and Community Board 6 member Nahum Kaziev addressed his concern that Russian-speaking Jews were not being treated fairly at the hospital at the June 10 meeting. Jerold Scherer, the hospital’s associate executive director for support services and administration, responded that the institution is “investigating this, and our executive director will have this information in the future.”

Scherer, a Forest Hills native, said the hospital’s new executive director, Geralyn Randazzo, could bring results of the investigation to the board’s next meeting in September. Forest Hills Hospital is part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

Kaziev, a board member of the Educational Center for Russian Jewry, said he and many other Russian-speaking Jews have complained to the hospital that officials there have been less willing to work with the population since Randazzo became the director in March. The Educational Center for Russian Jewry is a nonprofit organization in Rego Park.

Kaziev pointed out that the former director, Robert Hettenbach, who left the position in July, was much more receptive to the Russian-speaking Jewish population.

“Since the administration changed, we have had major complaints by patients, employees, and people in established Jewish communities here about the treatment by the administration,” Kaziev said.

Brian Mulligan, a spokesman for LIJ, said Forest Hills makes many accommodations for its Russian-speaking population.

“Forest Hills has made a big commitment to the Russian community,” Mulligan said. “We have a quarterly newsletter in English and Russian that goes to 125,000 people. We’re very concerned with meeting the health care needs of that population.”

Ted Lehmann, director of community outreach at the hospital, said the hospital has numerous staff members from the surrounding Bukharian community, including doctors, physician’s assistants, nurses, clerical and maintenance staff.

“We have kosher food available,” Lehmann said. “We’ve had lectures for our staff to make them aware of the cultural heritage and needs of the Bukharian community.”

Scherer and Lehmann gave a presentation at the CB 6 meeting about how Forest Hills has fared in the wake of the closures of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate, which shuttered their doors at the end of February. Since then Forest Hills Hospital has seen more than a 40 percent spike in the number of patients brought by ambulance to its emergency room, Scherer and Lehmann said.

To deal with the influx of patients, Lehmann and Scherer said they hired Randazzo and a new medical director, Gerald Brogan, and have added beds. Hospital officials also converted several parts of the hospital into patient care areas and added about 35 beds. The hospital now operates 275 beds, up from 240 earlier this year.

“We’re looking for future expansion of the hospital,” Scherer said. “It’s really not big enough. We’re looking to make it a tertiary care hospital, something like LIJ.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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