Hospitals keep fighting the funding battle

Medical centers seek donations despite economy, industry changes


Hospitals need to raise funds to stay in the vital business of treating the sick and injured in our communities. Fees for services and government and private insurance payments are insufficient to fund the enormous expenses hospitals incur in salaries, physical plant operations and medical care for thousands of patients.

A variety of health care industry and hospital-specific changes are having an impact on those fundraising efforts. Changes in the way medical services are provided, the still-struggling economy, and talk — and the reality of — hospital closures affect fundraising. St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, the North Shore LIJ Health System and South Nassau Communities Hospital are among the local hospitals that are navigating a changing landscape.

St. John’s

St. John’s closed its chemical dependency unit, which was expected to lose $1.4 million this year. It shifted its family practice, internal medicine and pediatric services to the Family Health Centers in Far Rockaway and the Arverne section of Queens last month. And the hospital is in the process of selling its two nursing homes, Bishop Charles Waldo McLean, in Far Rockaway, and Bishop Henry B. Hucles, in Brooklyn, to Michael Melnicke, who owns six such facilities. The sale is awaiting approval from the State Department of Health.

Richard L. Brown, St. John’s’ interim chief executive officer, said that two primary factors led to the detox unit’s closure, which should help the hospital in the long run. “First, it was suffering from a dramatically declining patient [population],” Brown said, adding that the number of patients couldn’t sustain the unit. “Second, the national trend is to offer detoxification in an alternate manner, which is now being incorporated into St. John’s’ patient care. This was a decision that will have a positive impact on the long-term stability of the hospital, and that, in my many years of experience, should encourage potential donors.”

Brown could be right about the fundraising, according to Margaret Carpenter, president of St. John’s’ Development Board, which raises money for the hospital through events and donations. “At the moment, I think it hasn’t affected us, and we are continuing with the fundraising,” said Carpenter, a Lawrence resident who got involved with St. John’s in 1983 and has been a hospital trustee for more than 25 years.

Carpenter said that this year’s annual Ocean Walk, on Aug. 22, raised $37,500 — a small drop from last year, but, she added, “We think it’s excellent.”

The Development Board has been successful in its money-raising efforts, Carpenter said. It collected more than $235,000 at the annual Chrysanthemum Ball, which was held in April after being postponed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. That money will be allocated to St. John’s’ emergency, surgical and intensive care services. This year, a new event, a casino night, will be held on Nov. 2 at the Sands at Atlantic Beach. Proceeds will benefit the Eric Matza Outpatient Imaging Suite. Matza, who died in May, was St. John’s’ development director.

The board also made good on its obligation to support the hospital’s planned expansion of its emergency department. “We pledged $300,000, and have paid all we pledged,” Carpenter said, adding that the board is also purchasing five new wheelchairs for the department.

North Shore LIJ

Even a large health system such as North Shore LIJ, which operates 16 hospitals, including Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream, has seen its fundraising level off at just under $100 million over the past four years, according to Ralph Nappi, the president and founder of North Shore’s Foundation. Nappi called that a “disappointment” in light of all the work the foundation does.

“It’s more difficult to raise money due to the economy,” said Nappi, explaining that the health system raises money through a combination of events organized by outside charity organizations and its hospitals, appeals to individual donors and foundation grants, and hosts a system-wide dinner every five years as well.

When North Shore LIJ acquires a hospital — most recently Lenox Hill in Manhattan, in 2010 — that facility’s fundraising efforts are brought under the foundation umbrella, Nappi said. “We pride ourselves on keeping costs down and raising a lot of money,” he said.


Elizabeth Nardone, vice president of Development for South Nassau Communities Hospital, said that fundraising for the Oceanside facility has not been impacted by closures of other hospitals, though the slow economy has eliminated one type of funding. “Prior to my coming here,” said Nardone, who has been at South Nassau for 13 years, “the hospital was getting grants from elected officials, discretionary earmarks. Now, no more.”

Nardone would not say how much the hospital raises, but she acknowledged that events, major gift-giving and government, corporate and private grants are all part of its fundraising strategy. “I think our fundraising is very stable,” she said. “There has been no push-back because other hospitals closed. The South Shore community sees the hospital as a resource, and since Sandy you can see how important a hospital in your own community is.”

Have an opinion about this topic? Send your letter to the editor to