The Health and Human Services committees of Community Boards 4 and 5 met in a special joint session at Borough Hall on Monday night.
The subject was hospitals in a borough where four have closed in the last five years, and where all those remaining face uncertainties of new state and federal regulations, not the least of which is the federal Affordable Care Act, known to many as Obamacare.
Robert Cermeli of CB 5 and Priscilla Carrow of CB 4, who chair their respective committees, ran the meeting.
Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills closed in 2008, followed by St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica in 2009. Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockawayclopsed this past spring.
All closed either directly or indirectly because of funding. Queens, with its 2.2 million residents, is considered to be underserved with hospital beds by most every authority with the possible exception of the state, Cermeli said.
“We need state officials to know that closing a hospital is not like closing a store,” he said. “There are no easy answers.”
Representatives of New York Hospital Queens and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center on the Queens-Brooklyn border said there soon may be few or no territorial boundary lines that hospitals in Queens serve.
“And they have to treat everyone who shows up,” Carrow said.
Vincent Arcuri, president of Community Board 5 and vice chairman of the board of trustees at Wyckoff, said three major factors are driving hospital costs these days: unfunded state and federal mandates, a state cap on Medicaid reimbursement and the failure of the state to adopt meaningful malpractice reform.
“Eighty-three percent of our patients are on Medicaid, and our reimbursement has been cut 2 percent,” Arcuri said. “That’s a lot of money. And malpractice insurance is through the roof.”
Arcuri said such reform could cut their costs by one third.