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Southeast Queens residents are facing wrenching decisions over where to seek medical treatment following the shutdown of Mary Immaculate Hospital’s emergency room and its pending closure
Hospital administrators have been pleading with the state for more funding to save the facility from closure because of its importance to the Jamaica community, according to Juliet Lewis, a spokeswoman for Caritas Health Care, Mary Immaculate’s parent company.
The 107−year−old hospital, at 152−11 89th Ave., has 225 beds, a nursing home and a cancer center, all of which will be closed at the end of the month. The emergency room stopped taking patients Saturday just days after Mary Immaculate filed for bankruptcy protection.
“We provided health care to many of the 200,000 residents in southern Queens. How can you close down a facility that treated so many?” Lewis asked.
Patients are in the process of being moved out to other facilities, several Mary Immaculate ambulance drivers said Monday.
Donna Clopton, president of the 103rd Precinct Community Council, said Mary Immaculate’s ER handled many of the precinct’s gunshot cases. Although Jamaica and Queens Hospital both have adequate ER staff and equipment, Clopton said transferring wounded people would put them at a higher risk.
“It takes more time to get to Jamaica Hospital or other [hospitals]. Time is of the essence in most cases,” she said.
Jamaica resident Stephanie Clarke said her husband Eddie, who suffers from diabetes, was complaining about shortness of breath Monday morning and went to the Mary Immaculate ER. Hospital staff made a determination on the spot that he had to be treated despite the closing of the ER, so he was given an IV of insulin, she said.
“We were extremely lucky,” she said.
Some Mary Immaculate patients were not so fortunate. Jamaica resident Michelle Canty brought her 17−year−old son to Queens Hospital Center Sunday night after he broke his ankle on the street playing sports.
“I would have gone to Mary Immaculate because it’s closer, but I knew they were closing. It’s very inconvenient,” she said as she waited while doctors examined her son.
Steps have been taken at the nearest hospital centers to handle the extra patient load.
Jamaica Hospital administrators expect to get a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in the number of ER patients in the coming weeks, spokeswoman Natifia Gaines said. The hospital, which handles 350 people a day in its ER, is operating at near capacity, according to Gaines.
“Overall, we’ve been working with [the state] Department of Health to make sure we take the necessary steps to handle this,” she said.
The president of city Health & Hospitals Corp., which runs Queens Hospital Center and Elmhurst Hospital, said “we are in the process of adding staff to the emergency departments in both HHC facilities to better handle the spikes in volume.”
But HHC President Alan Aviles also said “we are very concerned about the possibility of longer delays for patients in the ER,”
The delays will be tough on residents living in neighborhoods such as Rosedale, Laurelton and Springfield Gardens, according to City Councilman James Sanders (D−Laurelton). He said that since tens of thousands of his constituents use Mary Immaculate for both long−term needs and emergency care, traveling farther would be dangerous for them.
“Anytime we resist raising the taxes on billionaires yet let the hospitals that serve tens of thousands of people fail, we are putting the cart in front of the horse,” he said.
Christina Santucci contributed to this story.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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