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Long Island City Abortion Clinic Reopens Executive Calls State Fines Unfair – QNS.com

Long Island City Abortion Clinic Reopens Executive Calls State Fines Unfair

The president of a Queens abortion facility that hired Dr. Alan Zarkin, the infamous "Dr. Zorro," after he disfigured a patients stomach at Beth Israel Medical Center, lashed out at the state commissioner of health for shutting down her operating rooms and penalizing her facility more heavily than Beth Israel.
Merle Hoffman, president of Choices Womens Medical Center in Long Island City, said that Beth Israels fine amounted to $16,000 and its operating rooms were not closed after the "Dr. Zorro" incident.
Were an easy target," she said.
"The Health Department is distressed by the unhealthy conditions that existed at Choices," said Health Department spokesperson John Signor. "The facility had 30 violations, as compared to Beth Israels eight."
Signor said the department found blood on patient transporting tables and malfunctioning equipment in the operating room. He said that the violations were corrected by Choices."We wish they wouldnt play PR games in talking to the press," he said.
Hoffman, 52, told The Queens Courier that the state gave Choices approval to re-open its surgical facilities two weeks ago, but not until the clinic had been slapped with a $60,000 fine and ordered to buy $120,000 worth of new equipment for the operating rooms.
She said that as a result of death threats, bomb scares and harassment of Choice doctors and nurses by pro-life advocates, the Long Island ambulatory abortion facility is being protected by federal marshals seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Choice boasts it is the only state-licensed facility of its kind in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Hoffman started Choices 28 years ago when abortions were first ruled legal in New York State and before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Choices sees 45,000 patients a year and performs 15,000 abortions annually. It also includes a mental health center dealing with victims of rape, incest and domestic violence, and provides pre-natal care for patients.
Hoffman calls her guiding philosophy "patient power. We try to educate women to be responsible and active in their health-care decisions, so they wont be manipulated."
She said that in 1980 she had an abortion."Of course, I had it done at Choices," she said.
Abortions at Choices cost about $375 for first trimester cases.
Hoffmans facility is located in an industrial section of Long Island City, near the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge often under siege by members of the pro-life movement.
She told The Courier that she was stunned when she learned that Zarkin had carved his initials in a patients stomach an action that lost him his medical license.
"He betrayed me," Hoffman said. "This is no House of Zorro, He did irreparable damage."
Hoffman hired him as medical director at a salary of $300,000 a year and claims he never told her about his malpractice at Beth Israel. She said she had known Zarkin for 20 years and once had the highest regard for him. "He even worked for me for seven years. I found him to be a fine physician, but I cant forgive him for keeping the carving incident to himself. I should have been informed."
"Something happened," she said. "His failure to tell me what he did is extraordinarily unfair. Before hiring him, I checked his name, but it didnt turn up on the National Medical Registry Data Bank."
Hoffman revealed for the first time what transpired after she hired Zarkin.
"He called Dr. David Saltzman, the chief of obstetrics and gynecology, Zarkins former boss at Beth Israel, and arranged a meeting at Choices to discuss a midwifery exchange program. We were close to a deal when the news broke that Zarkin had carved his initials in his patients stomach."
Hoffman said she found it bizarre that Saltzman, who had known of Zarkins actions at Beth Israel, would agree to do business with him again.
In its 27-year history, Choices has been located in various sections of Queens. It began operations on Kissena Boulevard, spent 20 years on Queens Boulevard in the LeFrak Building and then moved to Long Island City.
Hoffman said that she had a good relationship with the LeFrak Organization, but that they lost the lease with LeFrak after the company started doing business with the Catholic Archdiocese.
She added that the constant demonstrations and bomb threats on weekends hastened Choices departure from Rego Park.
"My current landlord is not very happy with us either," Hoffman said. "We draw demonstrators almost daily."
"This is an absolute war zone," she said. "My doctors and nurses are heroes and heroines and it has become necessary for them to be protected by federal marshals seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
"Theres been a deafening silence. Few will stand up for us.

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