Monday, June 1, 2009

Thompson concerned about Queens hospitals


--State, City need to take immediate action --

New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. today charged that hospitals in Central and Eastern Queens are in a “state of crisis” as their emergency rooms confront a torrent of patients amid H1N1 virus worries and the closures of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate Hospitals.

“Hospital emergency departments in much of the Borough of Queens are in crisis,” Thompson said. “A new approach is needed if we are to ensure that the Queens hospitals and all of our remaining hospitals and emergency rooms are able to provide the public with quality care.”

Thompson was joined by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall in front of Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. Jamaica Hospital is among the Queens hospitals severely affected by recent closures.

“In recent years, the State Department of Health has closed four hospitals in Queens,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. “Most recently, St. John’s and Mary Immaculate, which each saw approximately 50,000 emergency room visits annually, shut their doors, representing a loss of more than 400 inpatient hospital beds. In addition, emergency rooms and a trauma center were closed. Short term funding from the State was targeted for equipment and infrastructure expansions, but did not address the need for additional healthcare professionals, especially nurses. Comptroller Thompson is right when he says that emergency rooms in Queens are in crisis. I warned the Governor’s Office that the hospital system in Queens would not be able to handle a major emergency.”

“The healthcare crisis in Queens has gone from bad to worse,” said Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. “It was troubling enough that the closing of two intensely needed hospitals could not be prevented. In January I called on the city to explore every viable option before deciding to shut down St. John’s Queens and Mary Immaculate Hospitals, a decision which could put excessive strain on surrounding hospitals and jeopardize the health and safety of New Yorkers.”

She continued: “Unfortunately, the outbreak of the H1N1 virus not only demonstrates the lack of sufficient emergency care capacity in Queens and around the city, but it has elevated the severity of the hospital crisis. I want to thank Comptroller Thompson for drawing attention to this important issue and I echo his call for immediate action to ensure that the city can provide New Yorkers with quality emergency care.”

Thompson has consistently warned about the impact of hospital closures in the region on remaining facilities. In December 2006, he issued Emergency Room Care: Will It Be There?, a report that assessed the impact of five city emergency room closures proposed by the Berger Commission. Earlier this year, he spoke out repeatedly about the need to better prepare for the closures of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate Hospitals.

The new Policy Alert, Closures of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate Hospitals Are Overwhelming Remaining Emergency Rooms; Emergence of H1N1 Virus Causing ER Crisis in Queens, found that emergency rooms are being flooded with patients, many who must now await admission, ambulance turnaround times are rising, and medical professionals are facing extraordinary challenges in their ability to provide care. Among the findings:

* The number of emergency room patients at the surrounding hospitals soared right after St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals closed earlier this year. For example, from mid-February to the end of March, there were 20 days when Jamaica Hospital’s emergency room exceeded 350 patients versus only two such days in the same period in 2008. The number of patients waiting to be admitted from the emergency room also rose dramatically in the surrounding hospitals.

* The number of patients brought to surrounding hospitals’ emergency rooms by ambulance soared. For example, comparing January and March 2009, the number of patients arriving by ambulance at Queens Hospital Center rose 51 percent, and at North Shore University Hospital-Forest Hills by 40 percent.

* Ambulance turnaround times – the amount of time from arrival at the emergency room until the ambulance is free to make the next call – increased significantly at Jamaica, Queens and North Shore University-Forest Hills hospitals.

* A Queens Hospital Center emergency room doctor with more than two decades of experience told the Comptroller’s Office that he now sees 35 patients per shift compared with 20 before the two closures, that conditions at the hospital have become a “living nightmare,” and that “the state of emergency medicine in Queens is the worst I’ve seen in my career.” His observations echoed other physicians, some of whom spoke of an overwhelming added patient load.

In his Policy Alert – available at Thompson noted that there had not been any public or inclusive discussion concerning transition plans or how the closures would affect area residents. Thompson faulted the New York State Department of Health (SDOH) and the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) for failing to acknowledge the deteriorating financial condition of Mary Immaculate and St. John’s Hospitals in a timely fashion and failing to put in place a plan to address the impact of the closures.

Thompson also noted that the SDOH allowed St. John’s and Mary Immaculate Hospitals to close without finalizing and approving a closure plan, in violation of the Department’s own requirement. Nine days before the hospitals’ emergency rooms closed, in its “Final Draft” closure plan (February 5), the operator of the closed hospitals, Caritas, revealed, “We have yet to determine that alternate resources will be in place upon the closure of Caritas.”

Noting that Elmhurst and Queens Hospital Centers could face an additional 30,000 emergency room visits and 8,000 inpatient admissions, the closure plan stated that “these hospitals may not be in a position to absorb this projected demand in the timeframe contemplated herein.”

“What we are seeing now is a crisis in the hospital and healthcare system in Queens, a version of which may very well spread to other boroughs if H1N1 virus outbreaks appear in other neighborhoods,” Thompson said. “To be sure, while the timing of the H1N1 virus itself was not foreseeable, the likelihood of some event of a similar nature causing a sudden surge in demand was both foreseeable and inevitable.”

Thompson offered a number of recommendations. Among his priority items: individuals with flu symptoms should be triaged at ambulatory care facilities; the necessary resources to deal with emergencies should be activated; loans and working capital should be provided to cover expansion costs; data on emergency room utilization should be made public; hospitals should be staffed-up to meet increased demand; and, gaps in services created by the closures must be identified.

“The City and State need to pull key healthcare providers and other stakeholders together immediately to share information, identify problems and develop solutions to address the current surge in demand stemming from the H1N1 virus,” Thompson said. “If the State Department of Health had begun planning in December 2006, as I suggested, it is likely that much of the current impacts in Queens could have been minimized or avoided entirely.”


Anonymous said...

thompson is the right man to pummel bloomberg in nov.

Anonymous said...

oh wait, so when we were all complaining about the two hospitals the city and state really didn't care and now this man thompson is going to save us. where the hell were you before this all went down? and are you using this to pull votes. what it took the swine flu, which bloomass let go out of control to get the attention of you and helen marshall? where the hell was everyone on this. don't think this will be enough to pull my vote away from tony avella, i've seen him make a difference.

Anonymous said...

must be an election year!

Anonymous said...

I bet he is also concerned about someone possibly hijacking planes and flying them into the twin towers and the pentagon. Oh never mind....

georgetheatheist said...

What Thompson did not say was:

End the Sanctuary Cities policy. Close the borders - tightly.

Immigration reform - ahora!

Anonymous said...


Avella sends nasty letter in response insulting everyone from Bloomberg, Thompson, and the Popw then gets everyone so pissed that they do the opposite of what he wants.

Anonymous said...

Wow, finally someone is paying attention to our hospital closures that happened 2 months ago. Thompson must need our votes. Sorry. The only politician that was interested in our dilemma was Tony Avella. He has my vote. At least he cared enough to show up at the hospitals when they were closing. Funny, I didn't see Bloomberg or Thompson there.

linda said...

hello, wow thank god someone understands this. this man thompson, with help most likely from marshall is going to use this as his foot into our homes with a vote. where the hell were you all this time. please tony avella is always there for the community and the people.

come november tony avella :)

Christina Wilkinson said...

Thompson was there. I have video of him at St. John's.

Anonymous said...

So where was panty-waist Bill's current big mouth when it was back when St. John's & Mary Immaculate was about to be closed?

Silent...we guess!

VOTE FOR AVELLA and pass on mild Bill too!

Anonymous said...

Thompson was electioneering by posing at the hospital closing protests NOT really behind his guns!

That's why I repeat...where was HIS BIG MOUTH then?

Anonymous said...

Why did these hospitals close in the first place? Were they not getting paid by the insurance companies, was it fraud, uncovered patients, what?

Obviously the demand is there. Also they are just the latest in a long line of hospitals to close even though the Queens population is exploding.

linda said...

I love that he showed up but again, a platform for his race for mayor. The hospitals failed due to the management company, and that's the real sad truth. The hospitals were on the works to be saved but greed played a hand in it.

Anonymous said...

The hospitals closed because of the Catholic Church politics. If you know the history, Mary Immac and St. John's were part of Catholic Medical Centers (along with St. Mary's in Brooklyn, which also closed.) They were doing well but the church merged them into St. Vincent's in Manhattan, and the Diosece of Brooklyn and Queens gave all the real estate and assets to the Diocese of New York. St. Vincent's Manhattan drained all the money out of the Brooklyn and Queens hospitals, and then went bankrupt itself. The merger destroyed the Brooklyn and Queens hospitals that had beern doing just fine.

Anonymous said...

Everyone of the experts and decision makers talk about the level of care that "should be" and their plans for improving a situation that from the point of view of a doctor "is in the worst it has been in 20 years". It is too late...That is like saying on a cold winter day, I will raise the temperature from 10F to 12F...Meantime people will continue to get hurt, suffer, and then have the nightmare of going to the hospital to get better..Sounds like a real plan. A broken limb hurts a human being now just as much as it did 20 years ago, or even 1000..How does anyone justify making the system worse, AND then going around looking for ways to make worse, better..It borders on abuse..

Jeanne C said...

This is all just BS. Sure Thompson showed up at our rallies, so did Avella, Crowley, Addabbo, Marshall, and M Smith, they all gave lip service in an election cycle; BIG DEAL!!! Not one of them came up with a plan that would work, they just pandered to the masses. Me, I'm voting for anyone who is not an incumbent!!! I'd rather give Kim, the RN from St Johns or someone else with no political background a chance to save what sanity we still have here in Queens, the rest of them are just a pack of bald face, opportunistic liars!!!

Anonymous said...