How is it possible to have a hospital in a city like New York go out of business?
For two medical facilities in Queens—St. John's Queens Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica—the road to oblivion begins with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which essentially abandoned them.
The problem goes beyond this borough, city and state. Churches, schools and many of the social programs that the Catholic Church ran for years have disappeared in dioceses from here to Los Angeles for reasons that are neither few nor simple.
But the imminent closings of these two Queens hospitals will combine to produce a disaster that touches huge numbers of people across the demographic chart.
The hospitals were operating under the banner of Caritas Health Care after they split from St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center.
At one point, there was a move afoot to have the facilities taken over by Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, but that plan collapsed. Then North Shore Long Island Jewish expressed interest, but that, too, failed to happen.
Was gross mismanagement the reason for the demise of two busy, highly-respected medical facilities in Queens? Is that why there were no takers?
In any area where a hospital exists, it figures to be the largest employer. With the loss of these two hospitals, thousands will find themselves out of work. Resident doctors, nurses, social service staff, clerks, secretaries and housekeeping workers—to name a few—will be on the unemployment line.
Joining them will be the ambulance drivers who are dispatched to transport the sick or injured. Will there be sufficient coverage once they are disconnected from St. John's or Mary Immaculate hospitals?
Will neighboring health facilities in Queens—such as Jamaica Hospital Medical Center or Elmhurst Hospital Center—be able to absorb the extra workload? Or should people just be told that they can't get sick anymore since there are not enough hospital beds or medical facilities available for them in Queens.
SEIU 1199, the union that represents a large portion of workers at both hospitals, doesn't seem to have the juice to forestall the massive layoffs.
Gov. David Paterson and the New York State Department of Health appear to have turned their backs on the problem, after tossing the ball to the State Legislature— which, in turn, passed it to local politicians, who say the right things but have yet to provide any meaningful help.
New York City regards itself as the greatest city in the world's richest country. So how can Queens be so poor that it can't even sustain two hospitals? The closings stink and many have contributed to the smell. Shame on all of them.
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