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Peninsula nixes ambulances

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Elected officials said they were furious Tuesday that Peninsula Hospital’s administrators were starting to cut back on their services as the financially strapped medical facility mulled a possible bankruptcy filing, according to sources.

The Rockaway hospital stopped taking in ambulances at the beginning of the week and its board has been involved in several long meetings trying to hammer out its future, a spokeswoman said.

Although the emergency room was still open for patients, City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) blasted the hospital’s administrators for refusing to accept ambulances he said such a drastic step puts residents’ lives in danger.

“This move is a great betrayal of the Rockaways,” he said.

The ambulance embargo is another in a series of recent setbacks for the hospital and the bad news may keep on coming. The hospital, owned by the same company that owns Jamaica and Flushing hospitals, MediSys, owes $13 million to its vendors and has said that it might have to close.

Sanders and other elected officials in the area have said the hospital’s disclosure of its debt came as a surprise to them because Peninsula’s administration told them as recently as two months ago that the medical facility was in good financial shape.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) has called on the state Department of Health and state attorney general’s office to investigate what caused the red ink.

In the meantime, the board has been working on a solution that would avoid closure, according to a Peninsula spokeswoman.

Although the hospital’s representative would not go into full detail about the meetings, Crain’s New York Business said Peninsula’s administrators have been meeting with physician-led groups to raise money.

One of the parties was identified by Crain’s as a “New Jersey physician backed by investors with experience in acquiring and turning around distressed hospitals.”

Three petitioners who were owed $127,204 filed an involuntary Chapter 11 petition against the hospital Aug. 16, according to Crain’s, but the hospital declined to comment about the court action, which was designed to give the board more time to resolve the crisis.

If Peninsula closes, it would be the fourth hospital in the borough in three years to shut down. Parkway Hospital was closed down in 2008 by the state and Mary Immaculate and St. John’s hospitals shut their doors in March 2009 after their parent company, Caritas, went bankrupt.

If Peninsula closed, there would be only one medical facility in the Rockaways: St. John’s Episcopal Hospital.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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