Congressman Bob Turner (NY-09), Council Member Eric A. Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach), and State Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) joined community leaders, board members, and former employees in front of the now-closed Peninsula Hospital Center in Far Rockaway on Sunday, April 29, to demand that the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health convene a public meeting regarding the closure of Peninsula Hospital on April 9, as required under New York State's Hospital Closure Planning Act.
Congressman Bob Turner said, "The closing of Peninsula has had an incredible impact on the community and employees alike. Providing them with an opportunity to ask questions and get answers is the least the Department of Health can do. Instead, they continue to ignore our requests and letters. They must uphold their legal duty to address our community and explain how they will meet the healthcare needs of the Rockaways and Broad Channel as soon as possible."
The Hospital Closure Planning Act, signed into law in 2010, provides that whenever a general hospital closes, the commissioner of health shall within 30 days of being notified hold a public hearing at a location within the geographic area served by the hospital. The hearing would solicit testimony concerning the extent to which such a closure would result in the reduction or elimination of healthcare services in the affected community, as well as options and proposals for replacing or enhancing healthcare services through other means in order to meet the needs of residents in the affected community.
"With the closure of Peninsula Hospital, there is now a healthcare emergency in the Rockaways and St. John's Episcopal Hospital alone cannot handle the volume of emergency care necessary to meet the needs of 130,000 year-round residents. This situation will become even more dire in the summer months," said Councilmember Ulrich. "Doing nothing is simply unacceptable. We are once again calling upon the Department of Health to immediately meet with Rockaway residents in a public forum to discuss our concerns, and to come up with a plan to fix this situation going forward. That is what the law requires."
The Hospital Closure Planning Act also requires the commissioner to provide a written report to the governor and the legislature stating the matter and his or her findings on the anticipated impact of a hospital closure.
"The Hospital Closure Planning Act, signed into state law in November of 2010, requires that the NYS Department of Health hold a public forum and report on the impact of a hospital's closure on the surrounding community's access to medical care," said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D- Rockaway). "Our families deserve an honest assessment of the impact that the closing of Peninsula Hospital will have as well as a plan to make sure our healthcare needs are met. I will continue to work with all of my colleagues and the Department of Health to ensure that this public meeting takes place immediately in order to determine the best course of action to keep our community safe."