By Penny Mintz
Beth Israel is warehousing 600 commissioned hospital beds that can quickly be brought into use to treat COVID-19 victims.
Right now, Beth Israel is a ghost hospital. It is dead but not buried, and it is still haunting Mount Sinai.
On Saturday, March 21, 2020, a Mount Sinai spokesperson informed The Village Sun that Mount Sinai would offer the city and state the warehoused 600 Beth Israel beds “to help fight this growing crisis.”
Another institution relevant to the possible reincarnation of Beth Israel Hospital is the Public Health and Health Planning Council. On February 6, 2020, when, unknown to most people, the COVID-19 pandemic was already well under way, PHHPC’s full council met to determine Mount Sinai’s application for a certificate of need to build its 70-bed replacement of the once 825-bed Beth Israel Hospital. The grant of the certificate would lead directly to the closure and sale of the 16th Street hospital. The only thing standing in the way would be New York State Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker’s acceptance of PHHPC’s recommendation.
At that meeting on February 6th, the PHHPC members discussed at length the threat of coronavirus. PHHPC Chairperson Jeffery Kraut said that our health care system has “a remarkable ability to mobilize and get ready when we turn the switch on.” He assured everyone that our response to COVID-19 will be like our response to Hurricane Sandy when “we were able to take care of anybody who showed up who needed care.”
Commissioner Zucker assured the PHHPC members that New York has a stockpile of medical supplies. “If there are problems,” Dr. Zucker stated, “ we can tap into that [stockpile].”
Both Zucker and Kraut are pointedly lacking in prescience. Yet they claim to have planned for every different scenario. Their lack of credibility, in short, is challenging that of Donald Trump.
Vice-Chair Jo Ivey Bouffard, on the other hand, made more accurate statements. She pointed out that hospitals play an important role as anchor institutions in their communities. They are, she said, frequently the largest employer; they buy locally; and they provide the potential for economic development.
In light of the dire straits we now face and the long-term value of functioning hospitals, Commissioner Zucker should reject the PHHPC’s recommendation and deny Mount Sinai’s application for the certificate of need for the tiny new replacement facility. Instead, Mount Sinai should be required to act on its original promises and refurbish the current building.
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