While Peninsula Hospital struggles to stabilize itself financially, elected officials say they’re worried for already “overburdened” area hospitals receiving the brunt of patient overflow.
“Other hospitals are overtaxed and overburdened as it is,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. “St. John’s [Episcopal Hospital] was overburdened when Peninsula was completely opened. Now that it’s closed, I can’t imagine the patient load they have to deal with.”
According to Liz Sulik, a spokesperson for Peninsula, the hospital has transferred approximately 78 patients so far. She said they were moved to a “variety of hospitals” including the North Shore/LIJ Health system, based upon their acuity levels.
However, because of Peninsula’s “isolated geographic area” and recent hospital closures over the past few years, Senator Joseph Addabbo said there are few other facilities in the area that could openly receive the patient excess.
“Every second counts when we talk about emergencies and providing health care to residents. The need just gets magnified when you think about Peninsula’s geographic location. St. John’s cannot handle the entire peninsula,” Addabbo said. “We’re already seeing a reduction in hospital beds with a growing senior population and people moving into the communities. We certainly need these beds. Now is not the time to reduce them.”
But according to CEO Nelson Toebbe, St. John’s has flourished in the face of chaos.
“While it is regrettable that Peninsula General Hospital has closed, St. John’s has been able to fully accommodate the increase of patients,” he said. “Measures have been initiated in the past several months to enhance capacity, service and access to both inpatient and outpatient care. The board of managers, management and staff of Episcopal Health Services remain strongly committed to serve the healthcare needs of the Rockaways and the Five Towns.”
Back in August, when Peninsula faced potential closure threats after its former sponsor MediSys decided to end its affiliation with the hospital, St. John’s received permission from the state to begin expansion of its emergency room outpatient care, surgery, intensive care and in-patient facilities, according to Toebbe.
The added emergency department bays and 62 new medical, surgical, pediatric critical care beds helped house the extra patients, officials said.
Still, local politicians continue to push for Peninsula’s reopening.
“Southern Queens and the Rockaways need access to quality health care,” Goldfeder said. “Whatever problems there are, we need to get the right people in the hospital to resolve them and get the hospital back up and running.”