By Ivan Pereira
State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) appeared in front of the former site of Mary Immaculate Hospital Friday to urge the governor to sign a bill they sponsored that would help New York communities that face similar health-care voids.
The state legislators are the co-sponsors of the Hospital Closure Planning Act, which would mandate that the state Department of Health go through a process that would prepare neighborhoods around hospitals that are slated for closure.
Lancman and Huntley said that when Mary Immaculate in Jamaica and St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurstï»¿ closed last year, the community was given little warning and elected officials, community leaders and other hospitals did not have enough time to adapt.
“You would expect when a hospital this big closes down, the government would give a plan,” Lancman said.
The bill, which has passed in the Assembly and Senate, would require the DOH to hold a special meeting with residents within 30 days before a hospital’s closing. The department would then come back with a detailed report on the state of the health care following the closure and plans on how to meet the community’s needs.
Huntley said that if such a plan were made for Mary Immaculate, which served more than 100,000 patients a year, the other hospitals would have been able to better cope with the extra load.
“My constituents have no place to go,” she said.
The bill is currently waiting for Gov. David Paterson’s signature and must be signed by midnight Friday, according to Lancman. A representative from the governor’s office said Paterson is going over the logistics of the bill.
“The governor is reviewing this bill and will act on it by the deadline,” said spokesman Morgan Hook.
Lancman said the governor needed to put the bill on the top of his priority list, since it was initially vetoed last year over Paterson’s concerns about how the public meeting would be conducted.
The legislators changed the guidelines for the hearings addressing the governor’s considerations.ï»¿
“The senator and I have a responsibility to legislate not only for the community but also the state,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.