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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 email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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