U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month requesting they “start a conversation” on how to address Queens’ and the Bronx’s diminishing health care access following the establishment of a work group to deal with Brooklyn hospitals.
“The focus of late has been on Brooklyn, but we have concerns in Queens County as well,” Crowley said.
The Brooklyn Health Systems Redesign Work Group, or the Berger Commission II, recently released a report at the end of November with recommendations to increase the financial security and quality of care of Brooklyn’s health system.
The study looked at six hospitals, one of which was Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, which many residents in southwest Queens use. The study recommended that Wyckoff, along with Interfaith Medical Center, be integrated into a system with Brooklyn Hospital Center, which has recently emerged from bankruptcy, at the head.
Brooklyn Hospital should then guide Wyckoff and Interfaith in streamlining their care to make it sustainable in a way that helps the communities’ needs and helps the hospitals fix their own financial problems, the study said.
Crowley said while he wants Brooklyn’s health care situation to improve, he wrote to Cuomo Dec. 1 requesting they discuss how to deal with similar issues for Queens and the Bronx’s hospitals.
Crowley said Queens also needs attention after four hospitals closed in the last five years. He said the closings have put a burden on Queens’ existing hospitals and resulted in the lost of hospital beds and emergency rooms in the borough.
“I want to find solutions,” Crowley said. “I want them to be addressed, particularly emergency rooms.”
The hospitals in Queens that have closed include St. Joseph’s Hospital in Flushing, which was converted into the drug abuse support facility Cornerstone of Medical Arts Center in 2007; Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, which shut its doors in 2008 due to a recommendation from the first Berger Commission; and Mary Immaculate in Jamaica and St. John’s Queens Hospital in Elmhurst, which were closed in 2009 after failing to get $36 million from the state to cover operating costs.
Crowley said the loss of emergency rooms was a particular concern as time could mean the difference between life and death in many situations. He also said that closing a hospital is a loss to the local businesses that employees once patronized.
“Hospitals are an economic engine and they are in our communities,” he said.
The congressman said some possible solutions could be relieving hospitals of their debt or creating a free-standing emergency room like the one being set up at the former site of Manhattan’s St. Vincent Hospital in Greenwich Village.
“I think there’s room for a lot of creativity here,” he said.
Crowley’s district, which encompasses Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Corona, Woodside, Maspeth, College Point and parts of the Bronx, does not include any of the shuttered hospitals, but he said the closings have had an effect on his constituents.
But his district does cover Elmhurst Hospital Center, which has been working to expand its services.