On the heels of a recent report that examined the status of struggling health care facilities in Brooklyn by the Governor Cuomo-established Brooklyn Health Systems Redesign Work Group, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) urged the Governor to join him in working to ensure sufficient access to health care in Queens and the Bronx, which have also faced the closure of numerous hospitals.
"While the proposals from this working group may not be the answer for every situation, I would like us to begin a conversation on how best to address some of the similar issues we are facing in Queens and the Bronx. This is a high priority for residents in these areas, and I hope we can work together to address the concerns of these communities," writes Rep. Crowley in the letter.
A number of hospitals in Queens have closed over the past several years, including St. Joseph's Hospital, Parkway Hospital, St. John's Hospital Queens and Mary Immaculate Hospital. From the loss of economic engines in the community to hindering patients' access to care, these closings have had a severe and direct impact on Queens.
Similar issues are also arising in the Bronx, where even Westchester Square Medical Center, which was saved from closing by the New York State Department of Health, continues to face operating challenges.
"It is time to start the search for innovative ways to support struggling hospitals, or new types of care facilities, in areas that have seen hospital closures," continued Rep. Crowley.
Rep. Crowley has been a strong advocate for urban hospitals and specialty care centers in Queens and the Bronx, fighting to ensure residents have access to quality care. He was a leader in the effort to keep Westchester Square Medical Center in the Bronx open, has worked to ensure fair Medicare payments and, in conjunction with his New York Congressional Delegation colleagues, has called for the protection of hospitals and health systems from the threat of spending cuts.
The full text of the letter to Governor Cuomo is below:
December 1, 2011
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
As a representative of New York City, I am committed to ensuring that hospital facilities and health care systems are in place to meet the needs of the community. Recently, the Brooklyn Health Systems Redesign Work Group that was created as part of New York State's Medicaid Redesign Team examined the status of health care facilities in Brooklyn. While the proposals from this working group may not be the answer for every situation, I would like us to begin a conversation on how best to address some of the similar issues we are facing in Queens and the Bronx. This is a high priority for residents in these areas, and I hope we can work together to address the concerns of these communities.
As you know, Queens has seen the closure of a number of hospitals over the past several years, including St. Joseph's Hospital, Parkway Hospital, St. John's Hospital Queens and Mary Immaculate Hospital. The closure of these facilities has had a direct impact on the region. Significant pressure has been put on the remaining hospitals in Queens, such as Elmhurst Hospital Center, to absorb the patient load and expand services. The health of Queens residents has also been put at risk due to an increase in the time it takes to get to the nearest emergency room, which in situations like heart attacks can mean the difference between life and death. And, the overall loss of access to care has left residents with fewer options for care and made it harder to make timely appointments with health providers.
Aside from the serious problems in Queens, similar issues are emerging in the Bronx. Westchester Square Medical Center is a critical community resource -- a fact recognized by New York State Department of Health when it granted the facility a permanent operating certificate in September 2010 -- and its continued presence in the community is crucial for both residents and existing health care providers. Yet, even this facility faces operating challenges that demand addressing if the center is going to remain a part of the Bronx's health care network.
I have followed with interest suggestions of how to ensure quality care remains available, such as possibly relieving struggling hospitals of their debt or encouraging free-standing emergency departments like the one being planned at St. Vincent's in Manhattan. With this kind of attention and creative thinking, I believe we could make great progress in finding remedies for the problems my constituents are facing in Queens and the Bronx.
It is time to start the search for innovative ways to support struggling hospitals, or new types of care facilities, in areas that have seen hospital closures. I stand ready to work with your administration to address these matters, and look forward to hearing from your office on next steps.
Member of Congress
CC: Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., Commissioner, New York State Department of Health