Written by Jill Nossa Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00
After learning of the downgrading of Glen Cove Hospital expected next year, the community has taken up its own fight against the proposed change. A rally was held last week in front of the hospital to send a message to the hospital’s administration that this city relies on the hospital and will not let it disappear without a fight, Mayor Suozzi has been leading the cause.
“We are here to try to get the hospital to postpone the decision until the full community has been informed,” Suozzi said to the crowd of about 200 people gathered around outside the hospital on St. Andrew’s Lane. “We are not here to demonize the hospital administrators; but to get them to come to the table to discuss the strategy. The news blindsided everyone...and I’m suspicious. I need your voices. If 300 people are behind me, that’s one thing. If 10,000 are behind me, that’s another.”
He mentioned that the hospital is profitable, and also noted that about $20 million has been invested in improvements and additions, including the ICU, the Emergency Room and the Brain Injury Unit. With all that the North Shore-LIJ Health System has put into the facilities, he said, “it doesn’t make sense” that they would just suddenly downsize.
“This is a business, a healthcare and a medical practitioner issue...the decision reaches so many levels..”
Suozzi urged the public to write letters to the governor and health care commissioner Shaw to put pressure on the administration to postpone the decision. “Within that all or nothing scenario, there’s still plenty we can do.”
Dr. Andrea Kaplan addressed the crowd and said, “It’s not enough to be here now. If you need medical care, come here. It’s a wonderful hospital with an outstanding staff.”
NS-LIJ has recently said that the operations are unsustainable and that it plans to expand the ambulatory surgical center while phasing out in-patient beds.
The rally was held outside the Mildred and Frank Feinberg Campus, and Frank Feinberg, a major hospital donor, said, “My father taught me four things: honesty, integrity, respect and communication. What they’re doing is the opposite. All of that was thrown out the window.” Feinberg, who donated $16 million to the health system in 2006, was quite upset that board of directors had not been contacted and that the staff had been told not to talk to the media. “They are doing something wrong,” he said. “This is Glen Cove, and it is Glen Cove Hospital.”
Chants of “Save Our Hospital” followed his speech. Feinberg later told the Record Pilot that the way the administration is going about making the decision “is worse than anything I can express.”
Residents protesting were suspicious about the decision and passionate about the need to maintain the services offered by the hospital.
“I owe my life to this hospital...my husband owes his life to this hospital,” Nina Held said as the rally was breaking up. She said she moved to Glen Cove from Brooklyn in 1964 because of the hospital, moving into a house right across the street. Her children were born there and she and her husband, Stuart, have both been admitted for various reasons throughout the years. She says she was also brought her children to the hospital when they were little. “This hospital is what makes our community,” she says.
“Without it, Glen Cove could become a ghost town...I don’t want to live to see it.”
“One thing people don’t talk about is time,” added Stuart. “The golden hour after a stroke, for instance. If you have to travel 45 minutes, you lose that hour.”
Michele Principe, a long-time resident of Glen Cove who has had experience as a patient and with family members as patients at the hospital,said she is very upset with the situation, and how she has been treated by the administrative staff when she sought answers.
“The service is personal and the staff has always handled my daughter beautifully,” she said, noting that her daughter has autism. When seeking information, she says she has not been treated with that same respect. She says she asked to see a copy of the SEQRA report and got nowhere, and was also told by a director “this is the new wave of health care.” She said she was told the move would benefit the community. When asked how, she says the respondent hung up. “I have been met with a brick wall.”
“This is a crime,” said Jimmy Sutherland. “I’ve lived here my whole life and worked at the hospital for 29.5 years. The only way to get things done with these people is to threaten them.”
A number of local politicians were also at the rally, expressing their concerns over the proposed changes.
“This is a public safety and wellness issue if the hospital is not fully functioning,” said Councilman Tony Gallo, Jr. “We need to do everything in our power for the administration to reconsider the proposal.”
“I have deep roots with the hospital,” said Efraim Spagnoletti, a candidate for city council this fall. He says he was born at the hospital. “It’s a shame they’re putting their finances ahead of the health of residents.”
The day after the rally, Mayor Suozzi had a two-hour meeting with Michael Dowling, CEO of NS-LIJ health system, Board Chairman Richard Goldstein, and Executive Director of the Glen Cove Hospital, Susan Kwiatek, that he said was “positive and productive”. Suozzi said the conversion about Glen Cove Hospital will be less severe than what had previously been indicated.
“There is flexibility in the initial plan, and there’s a willingness to include the voices of the medical practitioners and our community in future plans,” said Suozzi. “Mr. Dowling is cognizant of the public’s adverse reaction to the initially reported plan and indicated that NSLIJ is very sensitive to that. He did make clear that healthcare is an evolving environment and that Glen Cove Hospital must change to survive. Dowling committed to me to review the decision to eliminate all in-patient beds.”
Dowling made it clear that the hospital will not be closing at this time and that there is no plan to decertify hospital beds, although some beds will be moved to other facilities.
There is, however, a plan for the system to significantly change Glen Cove Hospital to a predominantly out-patient facility with an increased focus on geriatrics.
“Mr. Dowling indicated that he is sensitive to the economic hardship that changes to Glen Cove Hospital would create for our local businesses and community, and he is working to identify which NSLIJ services may be re-allocated and added to the Glen Cove facility to keep jobs in Glen Cove,” said Suozzi.
One resident, who says his wife has worked at the hospital for 38.5 years and is only a year away from retirement, is very worried about the situation. He said his wife is anxious over the possibility of being transferred, or losing her job, one that she might consider keeping even longer, if she can stay in Glen Cove. While he was holding a sign and joining the protest, he said, “I’m afraid it might be a done deal.”
Suozzi said he will have future meetings with Dowling and is still urging people to sign petitions, available at www.cityofglencove-li.us.