Smith to investigate hospital

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A state senator announced he will launch an investigation into the imminent closure of Far Rockaway’s Peninsula Hospital at a rally Sunday.

Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) was joined by residents, civic leaders and health care workers in Manhattan when he announced the investigation following Peninsula’s disclosure it owed about $13 million in debt last week, although some employees put the amount as many times that number.

“This closure can potentially cause irreparable harm to a community already facing many challenges,” Smith said in a statement.

Smith called on the state’s Department of Health, attorney general and comptroller to find out what caused the facility’s crippling debt, according to Tai White, spokeswoman for the lawmaker.

“He wants to be able to get answers,” she said.

The sudden plans to close was a surprise to Smith, who said he met with the hospital’s president, Robert Levine, just two months ago.

Levine told the senator the hospital was not in danger of closing, White said.

But on Monday, a spokesman for MediSys, the umbrella company that owns Peninsula, said the hospital was working with the DOH toward closure but had not selected a specific date.

Yet White said the senator’s office had heard the hospital could close as early as this week. During the Sunday rally, employees of the hospital said patients were being moved out as Smith spoke, and others were being vacated in the middle of the night.

The Department of Health could not be reached for comment.

Eisen Alimario, a worker at the hospital, said the workers would like to see the hospital remain open, at least for another 90 days.

Alimario said a group of doctors had been in talks with the state attorney general this week about what could be done, and more rallies were set to take place Saturday.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 11:10 am, October 12, 2011
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