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Parkway files suit to reopen, citing failure to bribe Seminerio

New Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills and its former chief executive officer, Robert Aquino, have filed a lawsuit against New York state that alleges the medical center was forced to close down after it did not pay bribes to former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, a Democrat from Richmond Hill.

The lawsuit, filed in Queens Supreme Court Wednesday, calls for New York to review reinstating Parkway’s operating license. The state revoked the hospital’s operating license in November.

Seminerio, who pleaded guilty in June to taking secret payments from Jamaica Hospital, allegedly attempted to extort money from Aquino and Parkway Hospital and when Aquino would not cooperate, Seminerio retaliated, according to the lawsuit.

“It is self-evident that Seminerio’s criminal conduct had a direct impact on the decision to close Parkway Hospital,” the suit states. “…As an operating hospital, Parkway’s license could not be revoked absent due process. Having a license revoked for the refusal to pay a bribe to a public official surely constitutes the denial of due process.”

Parkway was one of the hospitals the New York State Commission on Healthcare Facilities in the 21st Century, known as the Berger Commission, mandated to close because the panel said the area had too many unused hospital beds. State Department of Health spokeswoman Claudia Hutton said in November that Parkway “scored lowest of hospitals in that area on items such as financial stability, numbers of patients served, and how well their revenues covered their expenses.”

Although the Berger Commission had last year recommended that the state allow a two-year period to elapse before forcing Parkway to close, the Department of Health shut the hospital down in November “possibly because of the ‘lobbying’ of former Assemblyman Seminerio and other,” the lawsuit says.

Aquino said Parkway Hospital is the “non-client hospital” named in the federal indictment to which Seminerio pleaded guilty.

The indictment says Seminerio attempted to extort a “non-client hospital” and when that hospital refused to hand over bribe money, he “advocated” on behalf of Jamaica Hospital.

“There is little doubt that such ‘advocacy’ resulted in the closre of the ‘non-client hospital,’ which as everyone now knows is the New Parkway Hospital,” Aquino wrote in an Aug. 5 letter to Gov. David Paterson and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “Indeed, the Department of Health essentially overrode the initial recommendation of the so-called Berger Commission that a wait-and-see approach be taken with respect to Parkway and directed its closure.”

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

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