Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Comptroller Thompson Urges FDNY-EMS to Disclosure Plans to Address Closures of Two Queens Hospitals

New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. today called on the New York City Fire Department to disclose its plans to address the impact of the planned closures of Mary Immaculate and St. John’s Queens hospitals.

In a letter to Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, which can be viewed at, Thompson wrote: “These closures are scheduled to take place by the end of this month, yet there has been no meaningful effort by your office to educate the surrounding communities about how these closures will impact the health and safety of area residents including transition plans for ‘911’ emergency medical response and treatment services.”

Thompson noted that if the two closures occur a total of 15 New York City emergency rooms will have closed since 2002, with four emergency rooms having closed within the last two years. Among the recent closures, Parkway Hospital served some of the same communities as St. John’s Hospital.

“With the City’s economy in decline and as increasing numbers of City residents lose their jobs and health insurance, there will be significant demands on emergency rooms as City residents’ access to primary care decreases,” Thompson wrote. “With capacity already strained, crowded emergency rooms mean longer wait times for patients, fewer ambulances available to take calls, and possibly, diminished health outcomes as some ambulances are forced to travel farther in an emergency.”

Thompson asked that FDNY, which oversees EMS, take the lead in evaluating the impact of the two proposed Queens hospital closures, as well as publicly outline the steps necessary to minimize adverse impacts.

He further recommended that the FDNY hold a public hearing to allow residents an opportunity to provide input. If the closures move ahead as planned, he suggested that FDNY-EMS publish data indicating what effect, if any, the closures have had on ambulance response and turnaround times in the emergency rooms of the next closest hospitals.

Thompson has been advocating to prevent or delay the hospital closures.

In 2006, Thompson issued a report “Emergency Room Care: Will It Be There?,” analyzing the impact of the proposed closure of five hospitals, including Parkway Hospital in Queens. The report detailed how such closures could overwhelm emergency rooms at neighboring hospitals, reduce ambulance availability, and require New Yorkers to travel farther to reach an emergency room. Since then, Parkway Hospital has closed, placing added pressure on the remaining hospitals. If Mary Immaculate and St. John’s close as well, Western and Southwestern Queens will have lost 3 hospitals within two years.

In 2004, Jamaica Hospital, the closest hospital to Mary Immaculate, had roughly 100,000 emergency room visits compared to approximately 45,000 at Mary Immaculate. If all of the patients from Mary Immaculate switched to Jamaica Hospital, this would represent an almost 50% increase in activity.