By Penny Mintz
On Monday, November 18th, State Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and members of a coalition of community and city-wide organizations conducted a press conference outside of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office building before delivering petitions signed by nearly 1,000 people.
The coalition members and the petition signers are alarmed about the closure of hospitals in lower Manhattan. They called on the governor to step forward to make sure that the Department of Health does an in-depth analysis of local healthcare needs before considering Mount Sinai’s application for approval of their Certificate of Need to build a small replacement hospital.
“For the last decade, Lower Manhattan has consistently received a decrease in health services,” said Assembly Member Epstein. “It is imperative that the State make sure that the healthcare needs of our community are being met before reviewing the Certificate of Need that will result in the closing Beth Israel Hospital.”
Mark Hannay, director of Metro New York Health Care for All, spoke about the role Beth Israel has played in the community. “Beth Israel Hospital has served the Lower East Side for nearly 130 years,” said Hannay. “When Cabrini and St. Vincent’s Hospitals closed a decade ago, and Beth Israel became the only full-service hospital serving much of lower Manhattan, city officials promised that Beth Israel would continue in that role.” Hannay called on Governor Cuomo, the Department of Health, and our elected officials “to step forward and keep that commitment now that Mount Sinai has plans for a much smaller facility providing fewer services.”
Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, and Lower East Side resident, added that the state DOH “must put conditions on the Mount Sinai proposal for a new Beth Israel in order to protect patients and residents.” Feliciano stressed the need for an independently conducted community-needs assessment “to ensure that Mount Sinai’s proposal is truly meeting the healthcare access issues of the neighborhoods that rely on Beth Israel.”
The delivery of the petitions took place two weeks after a public forum, held on November 4th, had examined the downsizing of Beth Israel and the elimination of residential nursing home services at Rivington House on the Lower East Side.
Concerned about Mount Sinai’s plans for Beth Israel and Rivington House, several community and city-wide organizations had organized the public forum. Over 100 people attended. State Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, City Council Member Carlina Rivera, and, late in the evening, State Assembly Member Deborah Glick spoke.
Epstein voiced his concern about the impact of the downsizing, particularly on the nearly 200,000 people in the area living at or below the poverty line. Rivera, who chairs the city council’s Committee on Hospitals, said that more acute care beds are needed than the 70 beds planned for the replacement facility. She was also critical of the State Department of Health review process and called for a strong consumer voice on the PHHPC (Public Health and Health Planning Council), which advises the DOH. Glick echoed several of these sentiments.
Other panel members and speakers from the audience voiced concerns about the loss of maternity services, the loss of residential nursing home facilities, and the slashing of emergency-room capacity.
Brad Beckstrom, speaking for Mount Sinai, said (essentially) that MSBI was transitioning to out-patient services. That may work for people of means, but what will happen to the people who lack the resources or support system to recover from serious procedures or illnesses at home?