By Rich Bockmann
More than a year after Peninsula Hospital closed its doors, the Rockaways’ lone remaining acute-care facility is awaiting final approval for a handful of projects totaling more than $23 million and may be eyeing an expansion into the shuttered institution’s facilities.
St. John’s Episcopal Hospital is awaiting the final green light from the state Department of Health on a number of projects, including constructing 18 new psychiatric beds at a cost of $5.3 million and a $14.9 million expansion to its emergency department, according to applications filed with the DOH.
The 257-bed hospital is also trying to get permanent certification for four intensive care units operating under emergency approval since 2011.
In the long-term, St. John’s, at 327 Beach 19th St., is also considering taking over Peninsula’s dormant campus about 2.5 miles away, at 51-15 Beach Channel Drive, according to a spokesman for 1199 SEIU, the union representing nurses and healthcare workers at the hospital.
“There’s talk about repurposing the Peninsula Hospital campus into a comprehensive facility with services for mental health, pediatric, substance abuse, urgent care and an ER,” said spokesman Robert Hadley, who noted that project is in the nascent stages. “The last we heard they were waiting for a flood review. They’re not anywhere near close to breaking ground.”
St. John’s has been the only acute care facility serving the Rockaways’ 130,000-year-round residents since Peninsula was closed in April 2012, and earlier this year it moved a number of clinics to two Addabbo Health Care centers on the peninsula, one at 12-88 Central Ave. and another at 62-00 Beach Channel Drive, in an effort to streamline its services.
Health officials have been warning about the state of healthcare in the Rockaways since 2006, when a report from the Berger Commission concluded that neither St. John’s nor Peninsula was adequately equipped to handle the growing needs of the community and recommended the two hospitals downsize and merge to build a new, single facility with 400 inpatient beds.
By 2008, St. John’s had trimmed 81 beds and Peninsula cut back 99, but the latter was facing financial troubles and in 2011 it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with $34.6 million in assets and liabilities of $70.8 million.
As part of a court-ordered agreement, Revival Home Health Care — a company run by the wife of blacklisted healthcare executive Steven Zakheim — pledged $8 million to keep the hospital afloat.
The Health Department, however, sealed Peninsula’s fate when it closed the hospital’s lab in February 2012, preventing the facility from admitting patients.
Soon after Great Neck, L.I., bankruptcy lawyer Lori Lapin Jones was appointed as the trustee, and in April Peninsula shuttered its doors.
Earlier this year, Jones filed a lawsuit accusing Zakheim, who died in September, of mismanaging the hospital for his own personal gain.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.