Board members of the parent company for St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica were expected to meet this week to discuss what to do about the financially struggling institutions, including whether or not to file for bankruptcy protection or close the hospitals.
A spokesman for the company, Caritas Health Care, said there were no guarantees that a final decision would be made at the meeting, noting that Caritas made a formal request to borrow state funds to help keep the hospitals open.
“It is not necessarily the case that the board meeting will result in some momentous decision,” said Caritas spokesman Craig Horowitz. “They are in continuing discussions [with the state]. They have not received any sort of decision yet.”
Vincent Arcuri, a Caritas board member and chairman of Community Board 5, said Caritas would have to “take action” if it does not receive state assistance to keep St. John’s in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate in Jamaica from closing.
“We are at a point where we have to make a decision if we can’t make payroll and there is no more money from the state,” he said, following a closed-door emergency meeting between Caritas, the state health commissioner, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and other borough elected officials Friday. “We have five days to make a decision. [Caritas wants] funding for 90 days while a plan is developed.”
If the company cannot come up with a plan to keep the hospitals afloat, Arcuri said at the time, Caritas’ board might either vote to enter bankruptcy or to close the hospitals at its Jan. 21 meeting.
He said the some 3,000 employees at St. John’s and Mary Immaculate “are getting nervous. Also, we have 150 vendors and suppliers. We need to make sure people get paid.”
John Lavan, chief restructuring officer for Caritas, said the company is “in a real bind.”
“We have reached the point where vendors are putting pressure on us,” he said. “We have to make sure we are running a safe operation.”
He said both hospitals lost a total of $60 million last year and have a running deficit of roughly $29 million going into 2009.
Caritas’ fiscal woes came to light last week when Marshall said St. John’s and Mary Immaculate were on the verge of closing in a surprise announcement in her State of the Borough address last week.
The hospitals were in a similar situation when they were run by St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, which eventually sold the facilities to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center two years ago as St. Vincent’s was going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“Nobody wants to see the hospitals close,” Marshall said Friday after the closed-door emergency meeting at Borough Hall. “When the economy is rock bottom and when our state is strapped, we must work to see what we can do. We cannot allow this to happen.”
Her spokesman, Dan Andrews, pointed out that the borough president’s office commissioned a study in November 2007 that found St. John’s and Mary Immaculate “were essential to the borough.”
Andrews said there are hundreds of new apartments being planned for the Long Island City waterfront, but there are no plans to construct a hospital.
“It’s not looking good,” he said.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), who attended the meeting, said it would be “catastrophic” if St. John’s and Mary Immaculate closed.
“How can a borough of this size lose two health care facilities? There are frail and elderly people and to disrupt their living arrangements could be very serious.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2009 Community News Group
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