By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, local residents and healthcare advocates delivered a thousand petitions to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office on Monday afternoon, calling on the governor to further study the impact of Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s downsizing on the community.
The petition requested that Cuomo direct the State Department of Health Services to stop further closure of services at Beth Israel and conduct a thorough, independent study of the impact of the closures with community input.
“We just want to talk to the State Department about next steps,” Epstein said. “We want to talk about a larger study, a real study, to find out if this is really in the best interests of the neighborhood or if this is just a real estate deal.”
The petition argued that the reduction of beds from the current Beth Israel to the new facility being built is a “health crisis” because the hospital is still in use and that the Cardiac Surgery Unit, Maternity Ward and Pediatric Surgery Unit were closed in 2017 with approval from the State Health Department but without a community-vetted replacement plan in place.
“No hospital closure has ever worked out well for the community,” said Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public Health System. “We have a State Department and a governor who are laissez-faire about how we regulate hospitals. There needs to be a true community needs assessment because we can’t trust them. We need to be having a dialogue with them to make sure they’re held accountable.”
Mount Sinai submitted two Certificates of Need looking for approval from state regulators to close the current hospital in order to build the smaller, 70-bed facility on East 13th Street and Second Avenue. Advocates have argued that the hospital still fills 250 beds every day but Mount Sinai claims that the patient census at Beth Israel has been steadily declining and that the need for beds has decreased because an increasing number of procedures can be treated on an out-patient basis. A representative from Mount Sinai clarified that 75 percent of Beth Israel’s med-surgical licensed beds are unoccupied, and noted that the new facility will have 70 in-patient beds in addition to 135 behavioral health beds at the new Rivington facility downtown, for a total of 205 beds.
Penny Mintz, a West Village resident and a member of the Community Coalition to Save Beth Israel, argued that the community does still need those in-patient services.
“Mount Sinai keeps saying that hospitals in their previous incarnations aren’t necessary but in our community, people can’t be treated on an out-patient basis,” she said. “We need out-patient beds and nursing home beds in this community.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the bed count for the two new Mount Sinai facilities.