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State body to take closer look at Wyckoff Hosp.

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A state commission is looking to streamline health care in Brooklyn, but residents of southwestern Queens could be affected as well.

The commission will evaluate Wyckoff hospital, which lies just across the border from Ridgewood, and assess the quality of care, access, patient load and financial viability, according to David Hoffman, general counsel for the facility.

“What’s the plan for breaking even?” he said, summarizing the commission’s goals.

The commission is officially called the Medicaid Redesign Team Brooklyn Work Group, but also referred to as the Berger Commission II.

The first Berger Commission was responsible for evaluating health care across the state in 2006, and recommended the merging of several facilities in Queens as well as the closure of Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills.

If the commission were to recommend the closure of Wyckoff hospital, it would be detrimental to Queens residents, according to Vincent Arcuri chairman of Community Board 5, who said that roughly 50 percent of the hospital’s patients come from the borough.

“It’d be pretty tough on the people if it closed,” Arcuri said. “For everyday medical treatment it would be a disaster.”

Wyckoff will be especially scrutinized by the commission along with four other hospitals whose primary revenue comes from safety net programs and not from private sources, Hoffman said.

The commission will make its final recommendations to the state Health Commissioner on Nov. 1.

About 67 percent of patients use Medicaid — a combined state and federal assistance program for low-income Americans — to pay for treatment. When combined with Medicare — the assistance program for the elderly — that number rises to 85 percent.

Due to budget cuts in the amount of reimbursement the hospital can expect from those programs, the hospital struggles to make ends meet, Hoffman said.

“It’s been a struggle,” he said.

The Berger Commision II, named after Chairman Stephen Berger, may end up closing hospitals, but that is not what the commission’s goal, Hoffman said, and Wyckoff does not anticipate it will be on the chopping block.

“That is not what it set out to do,” he said. “Wyckoff does not expecting to be looked at in that light.”

Part of the reason Hoffman thinks Wyckoff will avoid closure is because it saw the streamlining efforts coming in advance.

Since it receives its funds from the government, it was no secret that fiscal belt-tightening would affect the facility.

That is why Wyckoff already restructured its mortgage to put it on better financial footing.

Hoffman stressed that the hospital provides a crucial service to Queens residents, even though it is technically outside of the borough.

“With the closure of St. John’s, there is not a lot of access to health care for the people in the Ridgewood, Middle Vilaage and Maspeth communities,” he said. “So we feel like we are providing an important service.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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