Op-Ed: What Is Wrong With Everyone In Queens? (from the Queens Gazette)
BY JOHN KRALL
Dear Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo,
I am writing this Op-Ed piece to simply ask you, the new sheriff in town, what can be done to fix the healthcare crisis in our borough of Queens, the borough where your father started his political career and where you grew up.
It is a fact that the waiting times in all Queens Emergency Rooms exceed 18 hours, the borough is more than 1,000 in-patient beds short, and patients can wait in hallways up to 3 days before being moved to their rooms. Are we living in a third world country? Queens is one of the largest counties in the state, if not the country by density of population and our healthcare services are considered the worst by any measurable standard. We are a swine flu or terrorist attack away from an epic disaster. Doesn’t anyone realize this or even care?
Since 2007 four major hospitals have been closed in Queens, three voluntarily and one was forced to close. Of these four facilities, those that were closed voluntarily all have been gutted and their properties sold off to developers for non-healthcare related projects. It is interesting to note that these same three facilities were given in excess of $100 million of state funds to remain open before they were closed and none of these funds were returned after they were liquidated. Why were the CEOs of these “not-for-profit” entities paid millions of dollars to basically act in such an intolerable business manner? It is very apparent that they cared more about hiding what they did with the $100 million of state funds then they cared about the quality of healthcare for the people of Queens.
The Berger Commission was formed to try and save the state monies in determining excesses in healthcare dollars so that monies could be targeted where it could best be utilized. This process has not worked because the Berger Commission has not been able to enforce the closure of at least 50 percent of the originally flagged facilities. The Berger Commission was originally chartered with deciding which hospitals and nursing homes were deemed necessary and which were redundant back in 2006. Unfortunately today, even the DOH acknowledges that the conditions that Berger used to make these evaluations have changed. The DOH today agrees that Queens is in need of at least 1,000 plus in-patient acute care beds. Queens has the worst ratio of patient to inpatient beds of all the counties in NY State.
There is one facility left in the entire borough of Queens that can become a hospital today. It can become operational in 120 days utilizing no state or city funds and it can hire more than 1,000 people in this time period. It can put 251 acute care inpatient beds back online and will infuse back to the city and state in excess of $5 million dollars in sales and real estate taxes while creating a 20 bed Emergency Room into a community where 18 hour wait times are the norm. It can offer other critical medical services such as seven operating rooms, advanced radiology, Lab, ICU, CCU and more. It will service communities such as Forest Hills, Rego Park, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Middle Village, Glendale, Maspeth and Woodhaven. All of these communities have not experienced quality patient care during the past decade and more. In addition, having this particular facility come back online is critical in case of a terrorist attack or medical emergency. It is located half way between both LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports and across from Flushing Meadows Corona Park. In case of a disaster, you can land helicopters in the park and you can triage people and move them around quickly since Queens Blvd, LIE, Van Wyck, Grand Central Parkway are all within minutes from this facility.
Governor-elect Cuomo, the facility that I am alluding to is Parkway Hospital. It would cost the state in excess of $1.2 million per inpatient bed or about $300 million to replace what you have today on the service road of the Grand Central Parkway. By simply being granted the operating license of Parkway Hospital the county would gain all the benefits of a state of the art medical facility but it would cost the city and state zero dollars.
Since you are taking over the reigns of a new administration and in your campaign you promised to clean up Albany, why not start in Queens by helping our local politicians, both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, this week, we lost a great Democratic leader Gloria D’Amico. After speaking with her many times I know of her great concern for the quality of healthcare in Queens. In addition, my 81 year old mother lives in the area where Parkway Hospital would service and I am very concerned where her or her friends would have to go if they needed quality inpatient hospital services today.
I urge you, Mr. Cuomo, to read this letter carefully and consider what I am saying here. The people and politicians of Queens County are looking for a strong Democratic leader to guide them through the political process of reopening Parkway Hospital.
Parkway Hospital is waiting for the political winds to change and allow its reopening as of January 1, 2011.
I hope this letter has hit its mark.