Written by Pete Sheehan Wednesday, 07 August 2013 00:00
Community leaders, including Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi, have expressed alarm over a plan to downsize Glen Cove Hospital, but are urging North Shore-LIJ Health System to reconsider.
“This is a ‘Medical Sandy,’” said the mayor, commenting on a plan announced last week by North Shore-LIJ Health Care System to downsize the city’s one hospital to an ambulatory care center.
“I think it is going to be devastating to the entire North Shore, not just Glen Cove” economically and socially as well as medically, Suozzi said.
Suozzi has met with North-Shore-LIJ officials, local community leaders and health care professionals and is exhorting area residents to send e-mails and sign an electronic
petition urging North-Shore-LIJ officials to reconsider the plan.
“I’m reaching out to elected officials,” including Governor Cuomo, Suozzi said.
In announcing the plan last week, hospital officials said falling occupancy rates necessitate the downsizing.
At the same time, they emphasized their commitment to maintain its full-service emergency department and to invest in such outpatient services as an ambulatory surgery center, medical offices, outpatient cancer services, a community health and outreach center, and physical therapy and rehabilitation.
“This is a difficult decision because we recognize that the community and our employees have strong emotional ties to Glen Cove Hospital,” said Mark Solazzo, executive vice president and chief operating officer at North Shore-LIJ. Still, he said, it’s the right decision to meet the current and future community health needs, preserve jobs and strengthen the system’s financial stability.
“Our employees at Glen Cove have always been exemplary and we have assured them that we will work with them individually as we transition Glen Cove for the future,”
Solazzo said. The hospital will work to help displaced employees find jobs elsewhere in the system. North Shore- LIJ encompasses 15 hospitals and nearly 400 outpatient practices throughout the New York metropolitan area.
“We are hoping to postpone the plan,” Suozzi said in a telephone interview. “I’m trying to bring about a 360-degree view of the situation.”
On his Facebook page, Suozzi urged resident to write to North Shore-LIJ officials and has placed an electronic petition to urge North Shore-LIJ President and CEO Michael
“We are extremely disappointed with the decision,” said Beth Evans, director of The Regency at Glen Cove, a senior living community. “It’s going to be a real loss to the community.”
Carol Waldman, director of the Glen Cove Senior Center, noted that seniors are really concerned. “They haven’t talked about much else. It’s always been a comfort to have the hospital close by,” she said. “They are upset because they concerned about themselves but also their friends.”
Once the unit is closed, some patients will have to be transferred to hospitals outside the community. That makes it more difficult to visit and support family members, Waldman remarked.
Suozzi said that local physicians and other health care professionals are concerned, too.
“We’re very upset,” said Dr. Michael Kotkin, a veteran podiatrist with Alchermes, Kotkin, Osteroff, and Morris, citing the economic implications for the town as well as the medical implications for patients. “People who work here, even if they don’t live here, eat at restaurants and patronize other business. That will be gone.”
Even if North Shore-LIJ finds job opportunities for the affected employees elsewhere in its system, “some of the people walk to work or drive short distances. They might not want to work some place else,” Kotkin said.
He also noted that if a patient is treated at the emergency room in Glen Cove and has to be admitted to a hospital, that will present problems for doctors in Glen Cove. “How are they going to cover their patients?” he asks. Even podiatrists, he points out, have some patients, such as diabetics, who need to be admitted to a hospital.
“We certainly understand where the mayor and others are coming from,” said Terry Lynam, vice president for publication relations at North Shore-LIJ. He said North Shore-LIJ intends to “ensure that we can maintain a presence in the City of Glen Cove and preserve access to health care in Glen Cove.”
“Glen Cove Hospital’s current operations are unsustainable,” Solazzo said in a press release, because patient volume has been dropping for years. Further declines, he said, are expected with the changes that are happening in the national healthcare landscape.
In the past, Solazzo noted, North-Shore-LIJ has successfully repositioned its hospitals. In the 1990s, for example, Syosset Hospital was converted into a minimally invasive surgical specialty and vision care hospital with less than 100 beds.
Suozzi acknowledged that legitimate economic factors played a role in North Shore-LIJ’s decision to downgrade Glen Cove Hospital, but argued that alternatives could be found
to address the economic concerns.
“We wish that we had been consulted earlier in the process,” Suozzi said. “We can try to find alternatives.”
Lynam said that the meeting that Suozzi had last week with North Shore-LIJ officials was positive “and we are going to have follow-up.”