Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway could permanently close its doors as early as Friday, community leaders said this week, marking the end of a tumultuous six months that included the facility’s clinical laboratory recently being shuttered after investigators found “serious deficiencies” there.
A state Health Department spokesman said on Monday that the 173-bed hospital is required to submit a closure plan to Albany for approval, and community leaders from the Rockaways said they expect the 104-year-old facility to officially close by the end of the week. In total, about 1,000 jobs are expected to be lost by the time Peninsula shuts its doors for good, and it has already laid off several hundred workers.
“The department will monitor operations at Peninsula to ensure an orderly closure,” the Health Department said in an emailed statement. “The department will work with other providers to make sure patients have access to services that will be closing. The department will also work with Peninsula to make sure medical records continue to be available to patients and are transferred to appropriate providers upon the request of patients.”
This week’s announcement is the final blow to a hospital that has traveled a rocky path since last summer.
After financial problems rocked the institution, Peninsula’s parent company, MediSys, ended its affiliation with the facility, and state officials ordered in August that it not take in any new patients until an operational plan could be implemented.
Following the announcement that Peninsula could close last summer, leaving just one hospital, St. John’s Episcopal, to serve the Rockaways, there were numerous rallies to save the facility. In September, Brooklyn-based Revival Home Health Care reached a deal to take over the 104-year-old hospital, and the group has garnered criticism from elected officials and hospital workers alike.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), for one, said Revival, which had no experience running a hospital before Peninsula, “made a lot of mistakes.”
For example, other workers said that while Revival was informed there were a number of serious problems at the hospital’s clinical laboratory, the group did not immediately address the problems. In February, health officials documented a long list of deficiencies at the clinical lab, and state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah ordered Peninsula to close the facility in what was said would be a temporary move.
The health officials detailed a number of problems at the lab, noting, for example, that an individual worked alone at the blood bank in January after receiving just two days of training. Because of this, officials said she did not perform quality controls or take the required daily temperatures to ensure that blood was stored in appropriate conditions.
Additionally, Herschel Kessler, a former third-year resident at Peninsula Hospital, said administrators deliberately did not inform workers and others at the hospital of the troubles that continued to plague the facility.
“After the new administration came in, we were very optimistic,” Kessler said. “Things were moving forward. We were in a process of signing contracts for electronic medical records. A lot of good changes were happening —and the the Department of Health came in and basically shut us down. Since then, we’ve been told that, ‘no, no, everything’s good; don’t worry.’”
Kessler and other workers said they are distressed the hospital will close, emphasizing that leaves the Rockaways with one hospital in an isolated area that has a population of more than 100,000 residents, including many seniors and, during the summer months, beachgoers. Hundreds of workers and residents are expected to protest the closure throughout the week in front of the hospital.
“It’s shameful that it all had to come to this,” Kessler said. “Being a doctor in an underserved hospital, I saw the importance of Peninsula to the community, and it’s going to cause a lot of heath concerns for the people in the neighborhood.”
Borough President Helen Marshall said the closure of Peninsula triggers a “medical crisis in Rockaway.”
“One hospital is now responsible for the care of more than 100,000 residents living on a peninsula that has limited access and egress options,” Marshall said in a prepared statement. “The population on the Rockaway Peninsula can also be expected to increase during the summer months, which are just around the corner. This is a time when water-related emergencies and injuries are not a rare occurrence.”
Goldfeder said he is working with the Department of Health, his “colleagues and community leaders to come up with a plan to get Peninsula Hospital back on its feet and working for the communities of Southern Queens and Rockaway.”