Today’s news:

Mary Immaculate, St. John’s hosptials seek cash to stay alive

Warning that “time is running short,” the parent company of Mary Immaculate Hospital and St. John’s Queens Hospital said Monday it would need $6 million in interim funding from the state by Wednesday to keep the doors open or else it would be forced to shut down the two institutions in what could be “a precipitous closure.”

“At this time, no tangible plan has been developed and no adequate source of funding has been identified that would allow St. John’s and Mary Immaculate to continue operating,” Caritas Health Care said in a statement. “And time is running short.”

Caritas released the statement Monday after state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans) called an emergency meeting last week at Borough Hall so legislators could advise the company on a bankruptcy reorganization plan and after elected officials and the hospitals’ employees staged a rally Saturday outside Mary Immaculate in Jamaica.

“We need everyone to yell from the rooftops, ‘You cannot close these hospitals,’ ” Borough President Helen Marshall said at the rally organized by City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows). “I’d be darned if we didn’t do anything about Mary Immaculate and St. John’s.”

She said Caritas would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Saturday if it does not receive the funds. Chapter 11 allows a company to continue operating as creditors develop a plan to pay off past debts and reorganize the business.

At the emergency meeting, Smith said the elected officials who attended discussed the situation of the financially strapped hospitals and were looking into a reorganization plan. He said he hoped the state Health Department recognizes “the importance of both hospitals.”

Caritas said it believed progress was being made with the state in getting the necessary funding, although a plan had not been created.

The corporation said it would need a $6 million bridge loan from the state by Wednesday “to avert a precipitous closure of the two hospitals, several ambulatory care facilities and the Monsignor Patrick Skilled Nursing Pavilion.”

Without the funding, Caritas said, “it may not be possibly to continue to operate safely.”

Caritas said an additional $30 million in debtor−in−possession financing within “a reasonable amount of time” is needed to care for the hospital’s patients and to make accommodations for them at other local hospitals under the reorganization plan. Hospital employees who attended the rally pressed for the state to come up with aid.

“If you come to these hospitals, they don’t turn you away,” said Frances Gonsalves, a nurse at St. John’s in Elmhurst. “It’s outrageous what’s going on. We need these hospitals in the community.”

The Rev. Charles Norris, a southeast Queens community leader, said he did not understand why the state could not come up with funding.

Mary Immaculate “has the only trauma center in this area. If they close this hospital, where do we go for that service?” he said. “They’ve got to find money. If they can find money for Yankee Stadium, for Citi Field, why can’t the state, federal or municipal governments find money for this community hospital? It must be kept open.”

Gennaro said the borough’s elected officials were supporting the hospitals in their fight to stay open.

“We are not going to send Queens back to the medical Stone Age,” he said. “This is about jobs. This is about our economy. This is about our future.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

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