Queens hospitals get ready to pull the plug

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Preparations are underway for the shuttering of Mary Immaculate and St. John’s Queens hospitals, where emergency and elective admissions patients have been turned away and employees are being let go on a daily basis, Borough President Helen Marshall’s office said this week.

Hopes for the survival of the two hospitals faded when a spokeswoman for Gov. David Paterson’s office said Tuesday the Queens facilities would not be receiving any funds from a portion of the federal stimulus package

“The state is clear that the closure plan is something they approved and there are no last−minute reprieves,” said Alex Rosa, Marshall’s chief of staff.

Rosa said Marshall spoke to Paterson over the weekend and he said there was no government solution to save the hospitals.

“He just reiterated the dire straits the state is in,” Rosa said of the governor.

A phased−out closing of the two borough hospitals moved forward Saturday, when the emergency departments at St. John’s in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate in Jamaica shut their doors. The closing is expected to be completed at the end of the month.

Paola Miceli, Marshall’s point person on the situation at Mary Immaculate and St. John’s, said the hospitals have stopped admitting new patients.

“Their energies have been focused on the guidelines of the closure plan,” she said.

Miceli said the staffs at both hospitals are being reduced daily and phase−outs of a nursing home and clinic operated by Mary Immaculate — the Monsignor Fitzpatrick Nursing Pavilion and the St. Dominic Family Health Center — are being planned.

Appropriate facilities to accept patients now staying at the pavilion were yet to be determined, Miceli said, while St. Dominic’s patients will be treated at the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center in the Rockaways.

As Caritas undergoes Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, speculation has turned to whether a suitor will step forward to acquire either or both hospitals.

Most of the speculation has centered on the owners of the Forest Hills−based Parkway Hospital, which recently ceased operating as an acute care facility, and the North Shore−Long Island Jewish Health System.

North Shore−LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam said the health system had not yet decided whether to submit a bid. Parkway could not be reach for comment.

Leah Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for 1199 SEIU, the health care union that represents workers at both Caritas hospitals, said employees were “extremely upset” that the closures are moving forward.

“It’s a symptom of just the fragile condition of the health care community in New York,” she said. “Hospitals are going under. They’re hanging by a thread.”

The hospitals together employ about 2,500 workers and serve about 200,000 patients a year.

“This is a borough that doesn’t have a lot of hospitals and nursing homes,” Gonzalez said. “We have to prepare for the worst and that’s what we’re doing.”

Meanwhile, nearby hospitals were taking steps to treat patients who would have been served by Mary Immaculate and St. John’s.

Lynam said North Shore−LIJ is investing millions to help patients of the two hospitals.

Some of the money will be used to expand the emergency room department at Forest Hills Hospital so it can treat an additional 12,800 ER patients a year, Lynam said.

North Shore−LIJ also plans to add an operating room at that hospital for surgery patients and to expand its ability to treat more patients at Forest Hills, Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park and Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream, L.I.

Lynam said North Shore−LIJ is also shouldering some of the responsibility for ambulance coverage at both Mary Immaculate and St. John’s. He said the health system’s hospitals would be able to take in an additional 4,000 patients a year.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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