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The fate of the long-awaited $149 million, 200-bed reconstruction of Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica may hang on a decision by the New York State Court of Appeals expected next month.
If the seven-judge panel in Albany overturns a lower court ruling that Mayor Giuliani cannot privatize Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn then City Hall is expected to set its sights on selling off Queens Hospital Center to a proprietary hospital.
At a news conference at the Queens Hospital last week, Cal Hunter, director of its office of communications, said "anything could happen."
Sources close to the two separate legal actions under scrutiny by the State’s highest court said privatization could put at risk health services for the uninsured and underinsured. They said that a private firm running Queens Hospital Center could decide not to offer medical services that prove unprofitable to the institution.
If the Court upholds the Mayor’s privatization policy it’s possible that the $149 million, State-funded Hospital could wind up in private hands.
Last week, the State Court of Appeals conducted a hearing on the Coney Island case. According to Paul Brown, a spokesperson for the Court, it drew the largest spectator turnout in its history.
He said that over 200 hospital workers and supporters–many from Queen–made the trip to Albany.
"We had to remove furniture in two adjoining rooms–the library and a lawyers’ facility–to accommodate the overflow crowd," Brown said.
He noted the spectators were well behaved and after the hearing chanted the civil rights song, "We Shall Overcome."
The Court’s ruling will cover cases brought by the City’s Corporation Counsel to allow the Mayor to privatize, a case brought by the City Council to uphold the lower court ruling and various filings on behalf of friends of municipal hospitals in Brooklyn and Queens.
A spokesperson for the City Council told The Queens Courier that if the State Court of Appeals backed Giuliani’s plan to privatize Coney Island Hospital it would set a precedent.
"It would mean that the Mayor could privatize Queens Hospital Center without ever telling anyone."
The City Council official said that Judge Judith Kaye of the Court of Appeals asked the City’s Corporation Counsel, "Would you look upon such a decision as precedental?"
The Corporation Counsel acknowledged that was the case.
On Feb. 4 of 1998, the Appellate Division denied Giuliani the right to appeal a lower court ruling prohibiting it from privatizing City hospitals. But the Administration availed itself of its last resort and appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Speaker Peter Vallone of the Council declared that the public had been shut out of the Giuliani Administration’s plan to sell off City hospitals. The Council seeks confirmation from the Court of Appeals that it has the right to approve any such action by the Mayor.
"To move ahead with what is essentially a garage sale, selling the system for what appears to be the price of a subway token, makes no sense, economically or otherwise," Vallone said.
The Council’s proposal on City Hospitals includes the following:
• Removing the Health and Hospitals Corp. (HHC) from Mayoral control by setting up an 11-member Board with three members appointed by State officials; three by the Mayor; three by the City Council; one by the Community Advisory Board and a Chair chosen by the Board members.
• Revising the funding mechanism to set up a permanent distribution system that reimburses outpatient care comparable to inpatient care, distributes funding to providers based on volume of care and could eventually cover providers for indigent care.
• Giving organizational flexibility to HHC. HHC would be free to develop its own initiatives such as managed care, regional networks and negotiation of its own labor agreement with District Council 37 and other municipal unions, separate from any City agreement.
At last week’s news conference for community press, Queens Hospital Center officials outlined the status of construction plans and said that the project would be completed in early 2001.
Plans call for the creation of a comprehensive cancer center and women’s health facility. The Hospital’s 200 beds will include 100 for medical/surgical; 10 intensive care; 20 obstetrics/gynecology; 10 neonatal; 10 rehabilitation and 50 behavioral health (psychiatry and detoxification).
The women’s health unit will cover women from adolescence to senior citizens, offering them private rooms.
The cancer unit will cover a wide range of services including breast, uterine, lungs, colon, prostate, and head and neck, including surgery and chemotherapy.
No plans have been finalized yet for patient parking. The Hospital currently provides 600 spots off of 164 St. in Jamaica.
Hunter said the new facility would better compete with other health care facilities in Queens.
"Just across the street is a Jamaica Hospital unit," he said.
Hunter listed New York Hospital Queens, Mary Immaculate and Flushing Hospital as competitors.
The new facility is funded by the New York State Dormitory Authority State of New York (DASNY) The building was designed by Arthur Hoey, Perkins & Will/Davis Brody Bond, architect.

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