Hospitals in crisis: SEEKING WHITE KNIGHT

If Caritas does not receive $6 million in funding from New York State soon, “the hospitals [St. John’s Queens and Mary Immaculate] will not be able to cover operating cash needs, including payroll,” read a statement from Caritas released on Monday, February 2.
In total, the company said it requires “a reasonable period of time and approximately $30 million in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing to be able to ensure, at a minimum, that in-hospital patients are cared for properly.” Additionally, that funding would make sure that accommodations are made at nearby hospitals and health centers for the additional patient load, including thousands of emergency room visits and the provision of methadone doses for thousands of former heroin addicts.”
As of Monday, according to Caritas Board member Vinny Arcuri, Chapter 11 “paperwork had not been handed to a judge yet,” though Caritas said it “stands ready to operate in bankruptcy and evaluate reorganization options.”
The Caritas statement warned, “To avert a precipitous closure of the two hospitals, several ambulatory care facilities and the Monsignor Fitzpatrick Skilled Nursing Pavilion, necessary funding must be secured within the next 48 hours to ensure, at the very least, a safe and orderly closure of the facilities; without immediate bridge funding of approximately $6 million from the state, it may not be possible to continue to operate safely.
“However, at this time, no tangible plan has been developed and no adequate source of funding has been identified that would allow St. John’s and Mary Immaculate to continue operating. And time is running short.”
Only a few days earlier, on Thursday, January 29, the Board of Trustees met with Borough President Helen Marshall, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and other elected officials to discuss the future of the health care facilities.
“What I carried out of this meeting is hope,” said Marshall. “Caritas will go through the bankruptcy process but they’ll reorganize. They’ve already managed to bring down their debt.”
An email from John N. Kastanis, FACHE, CEO of Caritas, informed employees on Friday, January 30 that Smith “Expressed his desire to see the Caritas Board of Trustees become more responsive to the people we serve by appointing new board members to better reflect the diversity of the community.”
The memo read, in part, “While there is a measure of optimism about our future now thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the elected officials, many issues remain unresolved.”
At a rally to keep Mary Immaculate open on Saturday, January 31, hundreds marched, holding signs and chanting “Keep us open.”
“If they bail out Wall Street, why not bail out a hospital that the community needs?” said Windelina Tirona, RN, marching with her fellow representatives for the New York State Nurses Association.
“The majority of the hospital’s employees live in Jamaica . . . Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Queens Village, Laurelton, Hollis, St. Albans . . . an already devastated population would suffer a further unconscionable hardship at this time,” wrote Christine Grieco, RN, LBU Chair for the Nurses Association, in a letter to President Barack Obama.
According to Fred Stewart, Vice President of Marketing and New Business Development for Concordia Health Alliance, the now-defunct New Parkway Hospital and its parent company, Capital Health Management, Inc. approached the state and Caritas in 2007 with a plan to take over the two facilities.
“[We would have] infused the necessary capital into those hospitals to keep them running, operating and moving forward,” said Stewart. However, the “offer was not accepted with open arms,” he said.
A private equity investment offer from Medical Capital Corporation, the California-based company that “pulled Parkway out of bankruptcy,” said Stewart would not have “relied on any state or federal funding.”
Then, early last year, Parkway, facing closure, went to the state with a commitment from Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan “under the assumption that they wanted an affiliation with a world-class teaching hospital,” but they were turned down, he said.
“We were giving the people of Queens what they needed - health care access - and bringing in private equity dollars.”
Now, an offer is still on the table, he said, with one of the main pillars being “our guarantee to keep the two health care facilities open for 25 years.
However, he continued, “A lot of this hinges on the state’s decision.”
In the meantime, Caritas “is engaged in constructive, ongoing discussions with the North Shore-LIJ Health System to explore the prospect of NS-LIJ acquiring the St. John’s facility following its probable closure, with the possibility of building a new hospital on that site.”
Terry Lynam, a spokesperson for North Shore-LIJ, said there has been no word of funding for their offer, though “We are eager to assist in providing care to those patients relying on St. John’s and Mary Immaculate” in the event of closure.
The State Department of Health said it was “in discussions” with Caritas as of press time.
With additional reporting by Claudia Cruz

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