CB 8 fears closing of boro hospitals

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Community Board 8 members unanimously passed a resolution last week against shuttering St. John’s Queens Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica at the end of February, saying the closings would overburden other area medical centers.

“There is a crisis in health care facing us,” said Kevin Forrestal, a CB 8 member and chairman of the health, hospital and community services of the Queens Civic Congress. “Southeast Queens is a terribly under−served area. Jamaica Hospital cannot take all the people who would have gone to Mary Immaculate. It is heavily overused.”

“Until the gap in health care can be filled, these hospitals should not be closed,” Forrestal said at the board’s Feb. 11 meeting.

Forrestal railed against the closings, saying thousands of vulnerable residents in southeast Queens would be left without health care facilities.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people there who are the most fragile,” he said. “They have high rates of asthma, they die of treatable cancers, there are a lot of homeless people and there are a lot of group homes in the area. They need care.”

CB 8 member Marc Haken reiterated Forrestal’s sentiments.

“The impact of the closings will be devastating,” Haken said.

Caritas Health Care, the hospitals’ parent company, has filed for bankruptcy, and a Caritas spokesman said last week Mary Immaculate and St. John’s are set to close by the end of February. The hospitals stopped admitting patients into their emergency rooms last weekend.

Bernie Diamond, a member of the CB 8 Land Use Committee, said Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica would be overwhelmed by the closings. He authored a resolution, also unanimously passed, calling for Queens Hospital Center to take advantage of an unused building now leased to the Margaret Tietz Center.

The building, owned by the city Health & Hospitals Corp., and located on the Queens Hospital Center campus, was to have been used by the Tietz Center for its now−defunct Skyline Commons project.

The Tietz Center had planned to occupy the 10−story building to offer numerous long−term care apartments. Tietz canceled its plans for Skyline Commons in January due to a worsening economy.

“There is no space at Queens Hospital Center for additional patients, but they are getting an influx of patients, especially from Mary Immaculate,” Diamond said. “This resolution is for the corporation to ends its lease with the Tietz Center and use the building for patients.”

HHC President Alan D. Aviles agreed with Diamond, saying in a statement that the Queens Hospital Center and Elmhurst Hospital Center have seen an increase in emergency department patients.

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

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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