State orders Parkway to close doors

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The state Department of Health is ordering the New Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills to close next week after it rejected the hospital’s reconfiguration plan last Friday.

Parkway spokesman Fred Stewart said the hospital filed for an injunction Monday against the state to keep the facility open beyond Sept. 30.

“At this point, we have no intention of closing on the 30th,” Stewart said, referring to the date the state gave for Parkway to shut its doors.

A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Queens Supreme Court, Stewart said.

A commission formed by then-Gov. George Pataki in 2006 that looked at the state’s hospitals recommended Parkway close, arguing that the hospital had poor finances and was unnecessary.

Parkway emerged from bankruptcy in late February after filing for Chapter 11 protection from creditors in 2005.

Estelle Chwat, an advocate for the hospital and its first personnel director, said Parkway provides vital services to the community.

“To close this hospital when there’s at least three to four high-rise apartment buildings in this community is nonsense,” she said. “To even think about closing it is a disgrace. I think the pressure on Parkway is unfair.”

The hospital submitted a reconfiguration plan to the state that if approved would have kept it from closing, but DOH spokeswoman Claudia Hutton said the proposal was rejected Friday, in part because it included plans for acute care beds. The so-called Berger Commission said the hospital could no longer operate as an acute care facility.

“At this point, Parkway has had over two years to address the Berger Commission’s recommendation that it close,” Hutton said. “They have not been able to make a persuasive argument.”

Parkway was initially supposed to close June 30, but the DOH extended the expiration on its operating certificate to Sept. 30 “to ensure finality,” according to a letter sent from the agency to Dr. Robert Aquino, the hospital’s owner.

“Operation beyond the Sept. 30 deadline would be unlawful, making the hospital ineligible for government reimbursement, subject to possible fine by the department and creating uncertainty around payment and licensure for the physicians and other licensed professionals who provide services in an unlicensed facility,” wrote James Clyne, the deputy commissioner for the agency’s Health Systems Management Office.

He said legal action taken by Parkway would be “a short-sighted and risky gambit.”

“As you are aware, the constitutionality of the legislation that required Parkway to close has already been upheld by two appellate courts, and Parkway’s authority to challenge the specific mandate that the commission imposed upon it expired more than one year ago,” Clyne said. “While we of course respect Parkway’s right to seek judicial redress, commencing litigation at this late date will create uncertainty for the staff and patients at Parkway.”

Clyne said Parkway also failed to submit a closing plan to the state and did not discuss the impending closure after he requested the hospital contact him in a Sept. 5 letter, which led the agency to make a site visit to the hospital.

“The report from the staff was that Parkway was proceeding with business as usual despite the legal requirement to close by Sept. 30 and the department’s repeated requests to focus on the safe and orderly closure of Parkway,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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