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St. John’s, Mary Immaculate to file for bankruptcy

After a week of frantic negotiations failed, the cash-strapped St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica announced they would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and close down over the next few weeks.

The board of Caritas, the company that runs the two hospitals, voted Thursday to seek protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 and also voted to file a closure plan at the direction of the state Department of Health.

Vincent Arcuri, a board member at Caritas, said the state did not come through with the $36 million the hospitals needed to implement a restructuring plan.

“It appears that all of the legislators and all the local elected officials were waiting for the Washington stimulus package,” he said. “But even under those circumstances, that money couldn’t find its way through probably before April or May.”

State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), who held a meeting with Borough President Helen Marshall last week to discuss a solution for the endangered hospitals, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The hospitals are expected to close within 30 days, a Caritas official said. But Arcuri said the closure will depend partly on the inflow of patients.

“Right now everybody is calm and waiting to see what’s going to happen,” he said. “The first indication will be when the Fire Department starts diverting ambulances away. That’s all self-destructive, because they divert ambulances away, you’re not getting people in the ER, you’re not getting bills out.”

The two hospitals, several ambulatory care facilities and the Monsignor Fitzpatrick Skilled Nursing Pavilion in Jamaica will all have to relocate their patients, Caritas said. The facilities employ 2,500 staff members.

Caritas pledged to make patient accommodations at other health care facilities, but Arcuri said Elmhurst Hospital is at 98 percent capacity and would probably have to get a loan from the state in order to open more beds — money not available to St. John’s or Mary Immaculate.

“I think they won’t have a choice now,” he said. “They’ll have to do that.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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