Hospital closure bill awaits gov

It’s been a year and a half since the two Caritas facilities – St. John’s Queens and Mary Immaculate Hospitals – shut their doors, and now elected officials are calling for the State Department of Health to better inform the public.

On Friday, September 24, Assemblymember Rory Lancman and Senator Shirley Huntley stood in front of the closed Mary Immaculate in Jamaica – which has, in fact, been sold – and called on Governor David Paterson to sign their bill, the “Hospital Closure Planning Act,” into law.

The bill, an earlier version of which was vetoed by Paterson, would require the State Department of Health (DOH) to hold a public forum concerning the impact of a hospital’s closure on access to health care for members of the surrounding community.

“After Mary Immaculate and St. John’s closed we were very surprised and disappointed in the lack of effort by the state to determine how the health care needs of the people would be met,” said Lancman. “We expected the governor would at least make the effort.”

The “Hospital Closure Planning Act” has passed the Senate and Assembly and is awaiting Paterson’s signature.

“My constituents have no place to go,” said Huntley, who noted that the two defunct facilities had served tens of thousands and employed nearly 3,000.

She said that, since very little is known about the sale of the property, she is pushing for a medical facility to be built on the site.

Local resident Anna Colado feels the same.

She told The Courier that she had been a patient at Mary Immaculate, and that she wants health care close to home.

When the two hospitals closed in February of 2009, the DOH allocated $18 million in grants to other facilities to ensure continuity of health care and to help in job placement.

However, both Lancman and Huntley felt it was too little, too late.

“The governor did a lot of work to help St. Vincent’s when they closed, but not here,” said the Assemblymember.