Patients flock to St. John’s after Peninsula’s end

The closing of Peninsula Hospital is not sitting well with Rockaways residents, who now must go to St. John's Episcopal Hospital for medical care. Photo by Phil Corso
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It is no day at the beach for anyone in the Rockaways in need of emergency medical care.

Since state Department of Health officials closed Peninsula Hospital Center in April, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway is experiencing a 35 percent increase in emergency room visits and inpatient volume has climbed 11 percent, according to a St. John’s representative.

In an effort to match the higher volume of patients, the hospital has stepped up staffing across its departments. St. John’s’ top executive said Peninsula’s closure has raised health care concerns in the area.

“On behalf of our board of managers, I can say we are very concerned about the immediate and longterm health care needs posed by Peninsula’s closure,” said Nelson Toebbe, chief executive officer of Episcopal Health Services and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. “With the support of our elected officials and others, we are exploring every option to expand health care services to our community.”

St. John’s submitted plans to the state DOH to expand its emergency department with an observation unit and more treatment bays, including a comprehensive psychiatric emergency program. When those plans are completed, the emergency department’s capacity will increase to 50,000 patient visits per year, according to a hospital representative.

Even with a potential increase in staff at St. John’s, elected officials still contend the closing of Peninsula has created a health care crisis in the Rockaways — one that will only get worse as beach weather comes to the borough.

“With the closure of Peninsula Hospital, there is now a health care emergency in the Rockaways, and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital alone cannot handle the volume of emergency care necessary to meet the needs of 130,000 year-round residents,” City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) warned. “This situation will become even more dire in the summer months.”

The Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center in the Rockaways, a walk-in medical facility, also said it is experiencing an increase in visitors since Peninsula shut its doors. Officials at Jamaica Hospital, another potential treatment center, could not be reached for comment.

Some residents of the Rockaways are concerned for their own well-being with St. John’s now left as the sole area hospital.

Benito Belches said his nephew and his mother both contracted a staph infection while receiving treatment at the hospital — his mother in 2006 and his nephew this year. Officials at St. John’s said Belches’ family were notified of the infections in a timely manner, but Belches believes the hospital handled both cases poorly.

“St. John’s is not a place I would take anyone in my family again,” he said. “If you have another option, take it.”

While St. John’s had no official statement on Belches’ claims, the hospital said it used proper protocol in treating Belches’ mother and his nephew.

A Consumer Reports ranking of hospitals in the New York area in March placed St. John’s near the bottom at 48 percent below the national average.

The magazine and website are part of a nonprofit institute that reviews products and services, and the research for city hospitals was done through data submitted by the hospitals, billing data and a survey by Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems.

Peninsula filed for bankruptcy protection last year when it was faced with $13 million in debt.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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Reader Feedback

Jackie from Far Rockaway says:
St. John Hospital in Far Rockaway is limited in services and the peninsula is in need of a Long Idlsnf Jewish facility which can address all emergencies. St. John has to transfer patients out for serious conditions and that is a timely procedure which can cause unintended deaths. Someone should consider asking for help from a major health facility in order to address the increasing population of Far Rockaway, Belle Harbor, Arverne, Inwood, Lawrence, which are the surrounding communities of St. John Hospital.
June 2, 2012, 2:19 pm
Fritillary bandito from Palmers landing says:
The guiness book of records has reported that the 100 pct cc prez has taken the most pictures with the same shirt in the history of mankind.
June 2, 2012, 5:44 pm
Richard B from Belle Harbor says:
Serving a population of about 120,000 people may not have needed 2 hospitals on the isolated Rockaways Peninsula. However, neither Peninsula Hospital Center, when it was still open, nor St. John's Episcoipal Hospital, currently, can handle the caseload.
Add to that, when the ONLY public hearing regarding the closing was AFTER PHC was closed, the New York State Commissioner of the Department of Health, Dr. Shah, disrespected everyone by apparently faking getting a cell phone call, and LEAVING the meeting room barely an hour into the scheduled 4 hour hearing.
June 2, 2012, 10:39 pm

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