Borough President Helen Marshall first broke the news that St. John’s Queens and Mary Immaculate hospitals were in dire financial straits during her State of the Borough address on January 13 at Queens College. The hospitals could be closed as soon as February if the state doesn’t step in with financial aid.
On Friday, Marshall met behind closed doors at Borough Hall with community leaders and officials from Caritas, which runs the two hospitals, including Chief Restructuring Officer John Lavan and Chief Executive Officer John Kastanis.
A source inside the meeting who asked not to be named said that the meeting lasted approximately 90 minutes. Their assessment of the situation was that it was an issue of cash flow, and that Caritas couldn’t collect fast enough on claims made to Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance companies.
“I believe that Mary Immaculate is the only hospital that is physically in Community Board 12, which has a lot of working-class and low-income people,” said the source. “For that hospital to close would be potentially disastrous.”
Combined, the two hospitals have just over 400 beds and approximately 3,000 employees.
Present at the meeting was State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr., who described his reaction after the sit-down as one of disappointment.
“Whenever you find out that you may have to close two hospitals in the same borough, that is devastating,” said Addabbo.
Addabbo said that Caritas officials said at the meeting they would need $20 million to stay open for the next 60 to 90 days, and approximately $60 million to make it through the rest of the year.
Although, Addabbo noted that it would be hard for Caritas to make the hospitals fiscally solvent now that the word is out on the street that they are in real danger of closing.
“I’m hopeful that we can come up with a short-term plan so that we can have time to find a long-term plan,” said Addabbo.
According to a report in the New York Times, a representative from Long Island Jewish Medical Center said that it would be interested in taking over the two hospitals, but only if it could consolidate the two facilities in a new plant. However, that would likely require state support and the issuance of bonds, both unlikely given the current economic climate.
In the meantime, Caritas officials are hoping the state can step up to the plate with financial support. Claudia Hutton, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health, said that the state has done its best to help the two hospitals survive.
Hutton noted that Caritas has been given $44 million in loans and grants over the past two years to help the struggling hospitals stay afloat, and that the money wasn’t meant to be a permanent source of funding.
Hutton also said that she was aware that Long Island Jewish and Caritas had been discussing a takeover, but could not comment.
“We don't have a full set of proposals to review,” she said.