$36M hole too deep for city, state help

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If it had received $36 million from the state, the parent company of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals said it would have been able to continue operations at the financially troubled facilities.

According to Dan Andrews, spokesman for Borough President Helen Marshall, the state and Caritas “agree there’s no money” to help the hospitals.

He said Marshall visited Albany Friday and was “heavily engaged with different entities,” including health agencies, political leaders and Gov. David Paterson’s office.

“She’s trying to find a solution to save both hospitals, but time is running out,” Andrews said, noting that Marshall was also in contact with various emergency rooms across the borough that will be serving patients usually taken by Mary Immaculate and St. John’s.

Marshall held two emergency meetings at Borough Hall earlier this month, including one convened at the insistence of state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans), who has not been publicly visible in the most recent efforts to rescue the beleaguered hospitals, weighed down by inadequate government reimbursements for patients and outdated technology.

Smith could not be reached for comment.

City Councilman James Sanders (D−Laurelton) said Smith was doing all he can to help the hospitals.

“As a resident of southeast Queens, [Smith] is intimately aware of the needs of [Mary Immaculate],” Sanders said. “Although I am not familiar with his plan, knowing Sen. Smith, it will be well thought out. I suggest that no matter what we do, he has provided an outline we can work with.”

Caritas asked the state for $36 million — $6 million to meet payroll and $30 million in debtor−i­n−posses­sion financing — but was unsuccessful before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month. It has $100 million in debts, including $55 million owed to the state.

Following the second meeting at Borough Hall, Marshall put most of the blame on the status of Mary Immaculate and St. John’s on its previous owner, St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers.

St. Vincent’s filed for Chapter 11 in 2007, when Wyckoff Medical Center submitted the winning bid and acquired the two hospitals under the name of Caritas. Both hospitals draw poor and uninsured patients.

“St. Vincent’s sucked the life out of these hospitals,” Marshall said after a news conference following the second meeting at Borough Hall.

She said the company did not invest in technology to make St. John’s and Mary Immaculate more attractive hospitals for potential patients.

“Many of the things that are done to furnish a hospital had not been done,” Marshall said.

The borough president also said Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates were part of the problem.

“Our Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement is pitiful,” she said.

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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