Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hospital Closures Create a Crisis In Queens

Yesterday I talked about the ultimate impact of reimbursement cuts to hospitals saying that this could lead to closures. The Wall Street Journal on Monday ran a scary article about how this is already happening in the borough of Queens in New York City. In the last two years, three hospitals have closed in Queens decreasing its bed capacity by almost a third and giving it the lowest ratio of beds per 1000 population in the area (1/3 of Manhattan's capacity). One hospital closed at the request of a state commission and the other two just went bankrupt.

How has this affected healthcare? At New York Hospital Queens, patients are waiting an average of 17 hours to be placed in beds. At Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, the Emergency Department has been expanded into a former cafe and conference room to try and cope with the huge growth in new patients. The ED there was designed for a maximum of 60,000 patients a year and they are currently seeing over twice that. At Compirion we offer excellent assistance to hospitals preparing for surges, but dealing with this type of situation would be a challenge.

Patients at these hospitals describe the situation as being in a war torn third world country. Sometimes ambulances need to park outside the ED with their patients waiting for their turn to get in the hospital. Hallways are filled with gurneys. ED nurses see up to 28 patients during a 12 hour shift. Requesting that ambulances go on diversion doesn't do any good because every other hospital is on diversion too.

Some patients are avoiding this chaos by traveling to other boroughs for healthcare. But what happens when these hospitals face the same extreme measures? To reiterate what I said yesterday, simply cutting payments to hospitals will not solve our current crisis. Continued cuts will just spread the situation in Queens to the rest of the country. We need a coordinated effort to address all of the areas of inefficiency, payment inequities and abuses of the system.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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