Months after hundreds of sick and dying COVID-19 patients flooded the emergency room and critical care units at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, the state Health Department is backing a plan to slash beds and gut the medical center.
A consulting firm working with the New York State Department of Health has proposed cutting capacity, eliminating hundreds of employees and turning the Peninsula’s only medical center into a 15-bed “micro hospital,” according to information shared with the Eagle.
St. John’s is located in Far Rockaway’s zip code 11691, home to New York City’s second-highest COVID death rate during the peak of the pandemic. At least 418 zip code residents have so far died of COVID-19, still more in the predominantly Black surrounding communities, according to city data.
St. John’s treated the very first known case of COVID-19 in Queens nearly one year ago.
Last week, however, New York Health Department officials and the consulting firm ToneyKorf Partners LLC presented St. John’s administrators with three drastic cost-cutting proposals, with each plan set to eliminate hospital staff and services, according to the information shared with the Eagle.
One proposal would reduce the number of beds at St. John’s from 257 to 91 while eliminating obstetrics, newborn and pediatric services. Another proposal would turn St. John’s into a 30-bed “health plex” with 337 staff members, down from a current total of 1,126, according to state figures.
The final option would transform the facility into a 15-bed “micro hospital.” Health Department officials favored that proposal, according to a person familiar with the conversations between the state and the hospital.
St. John’s Board Chair Rev. Lawrence Provenzano said the “micro hospital” proposal would eliminate 1,000 employees and devastate the predominantly low-income and working class communities who depend on the safety net hospital.
“The Department of Health is abandoning any consideration of the documented community health needs of this overwhelming underserved population,” Provenzano said.
“How can you reduce health services from this community when they clearly need more? How many more people would have died if the Department of Health’s plan for St. John’s to become a 15-bed micro hospital would have happened before the peak of the pandemic?” he added.
Provenzano called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discard a plan that would cut funding to the hospital and force it to downsize.