Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway officially closed Monday, leaving residents reeling and elected officials scrambling to reopen the 104-year-old institution that had employed more than 1,000 people.
The closure of the 173-bed facility leaves one hospital in the Rockaways, St. John’s Episcopal.
“This is a death sentence,” said Brett Scudder, a community activist who runs an online radio program in the Rockaways. “There’s 130,000 people here. St. John’s cannot, will not, sustain the people of the Rockaways.”
The end of Peninsula comes on the heels of a rocky seven months for the institution, including the state recently shuttering its clinical lab after documenting a long list of “serious deficiencies” with it. The hospital has also been rocked by financial problems, and Peninsula’s parent company, MediSys, ended its affiliation with the site last August. At that point, the state had targeted Peninsula for closure, but the Brooklyn-based Revival Home Health Care reached a deal to take over the facility.
Since the closure of the lab at the end of February, patients have been diverted from Peninsula, and civic leaders and elected officials said St. John’s is struggling under the weight of the additional people flooding its facilities.
“St. John’s is packed,” Lew Simon, a Democratic district leader in the Rockaways, said during a conference call led by state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) on Tuesday afternoon. “People are waiting eight, nine hours in the emergency room.”
Smith, who began holding conference calls every other day on Peninsula beginning on Good Friday, and Borough President Helen Marshall said they were attempting to soon set up a meeting with Gov. Cuomo about reopening the hospital. To participate in a conference call, contact Smith’s office at (718) 454-0162.
The state senator and others legislators had tried to stop the state Health Department from revoking Peninsula’s certificate of operation, saying that would make it far easier to find another investor for the hospital. Elected officials and board members attempted to save the hospital on Monday by bringing on the Chicago-based People’s Choice Hospital as Peninsula’s main investor.
However, Joe Mure, a former Peninsula Hospital board member, said People’s Choice would not commit to a specific amount it would invest in the hospital on Monday, which the hospital’s court-appointed trustee said had to happen that day to keep the state from pulling the certificate of operation.
A Health Department spokesman said the state is legally required to rescind a license once it signs off on a hospital’s closure plan, which it did on Monday. The spokesman said he did not know if the department physically had the certificate as of Wednesday afternoon.
But Mure said he had been informed that the certificate is not “usually pulled for a couple of months.”
“Why is there this urgency to pull it?” Mure asked during Tuesday’s conference call.
There has been an outpouring of resistance from community members and legislators against the closure. State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), Simon, doctors and nurses rallied outside the Health Department’s Manhattan office last week in a final attempt to deter them from going through with its plan.
“This hospital is important to ensure that our families have access to quality, accessible and affordable healthcare on the Rockaway peninsula,” Goldfeder said. “We must not give up.”