To maintain its viability, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, the only remaining hospital on the Rockaway peninsula since Peninsula Hospital closed in 2012, is discussing a possible affiliation with the Rockville Centre-based Catholic Health Services of Long Island.
St. John’s and CHS officials confirmed that talks began last year, and a decision is expected to be made within the next three months to move the discussions past the exploration stage. St. John’s is owned by Episcopal Health Services (EHS).
Responding to questions from the Herald, Richard Brown, chief executive officer of St. John’s, said that the hospital’s board of trustees is committed to providing hospital services to the more than 110,000 residents in its coverage area, including many in the Five Towns and Queens, but realizes that in the current health care environment, it is difficult to remain independent.
“Opportunities for future sustainability could be found in affiliating with a quality health system such as Catholic Health Services of Long Island with its flagship, St. Francis Hospital, which is ranked among the top 10 hospitals in the nation,” Brown said.
CHS spokeswoman Christine Hendricks said that “talks have been ongoing for quite some time, but no conclusion has yet to be reached [as] to what type of relationship we would have.”
In addition to St. Francis, in Roslyn, CHS also runs Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson. There are also five continuing-care centers: Good Samaritan Nursing Home in Sayville, Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson and Maryhaven Center of Hope in Port Jefferson Station, which provide services across Long Island, and St. Catherine of Siena and Our Lady of Consolation nursing and rehabilitative centers, in Smithtown and West Islip, respectively.
As negotiations continue, St. John’s is moving ahead with an expansion and renovation of its emergency department (chart, at right). Housed in a 12,500-square-foot space built in the 1950s, it was designed to treat 15,000 patients per year, but is now serving more than 40,000. Brown said that the first of three phases of the project is expected to be completed by Dec. 25, and the entire project should be finished in the next 22 months.
“The modernization and expansion of the emergency department is critical to accommodate the current needs of the community,” Brown said. “It is the first step in addressing the community’s future health and hospital needs.”
Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano, head of the Episcopal Church on Long Island, who oversees EHS, said that for St. John’s to remain viable and be the hospital of choice for the community, it cannot remain rooted in the past, but a “systemic shift” in its services must take place.
Hospital officials said that the sale of the Bishop Henry R. Hucles Nursing Home in Far Rockaway is anticipated to be completed within 45 days. The price could be as much as $14 million, and a portion of the proceeds will be used for the emergency department expansion.
The sale of the Bishop Charles Waldo McLean Nursing Home in Far Rockaway is being reviewed by the state’s Hospital Review and Planning Council. Previously, St. John’s closed its chemical dependency unit, which was losing $1.4 million per year, and has reduced the number of beds in the hospital by 17, to 240, which, Brown noted, is a national trend. The contract of Louisiana-based Pitts Management, which was running the facility’s daily operations, was not renewed.
“St. John’s Hospital is not going to go out of business,” Brown said, addressing a gathering of residents and hospital employees at a panel discussion organized by State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Far Rockaway) at the Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School, a block from the hospital, on March 13.
“We’re in this together,” the bishop added.