After more than 80 years of operation, the Westchester Square Medical Center in the Bronx is on track to be absorbed by a larger hospital group later this month, leaving many community members and hospital employees worried about local health care and jobs. Borough reporter Erin Clarke filed the following report.
For years, Hannah Acampora has depended on Westchester Square Medical Center, a hospital in the Westchester Village section of the Bronx that many say, has a "mom and pop shop" feel to it.
"We feel safe. It's a community hospital," said Acampora, a member of Community Board 10.
"The doctors are very close to their patients. If we have a problem, we deal directly with the attending doctors," said Mary McNulty, a nurse at Westchester Square.
The hospital is scheduled to close on March 10. Its assets will be up for auction, but it is widely believed that Montefiore Medical Center will purchase the hospital.
This follows a series of setbacks over the last decade. In 2006, a commission created to cut state hospital costs recommended closing Westchester Square, but the State Department of Health determined it was needed by the community.
"After that, we really believed that we were going to stay open. Everything was going to be fine," said McNulty.
But the hospital was in bankruptcy. Although board members found a way to pay their creditors, the State Department of Health ultimately signed off on the sale to Montefiore.
Community members now wonder what this will mean for them.
"We have so many eldery people and we hear horror stories about the other area hospitals. At Einstein, for instance, the wait time in the emergency room has tripled," said Acampora.
"What you're going to get is no choice of going to any other facility," said Louis Rocco, the founder of the Westchester Square Civic Association.
Then there are the jobs. Nurses say a high-ranking Montefiore official visited their hospital and told them that there is no need to worry about employment.
But a letter from Westchester Square administrators tells employees their jobs will be terminated while Montefiore evaluates its staffing needs.
"After 35 years I have to put together a resume to present to them," said McNulty.
Nurses like McNulty wonders why, with the Bronx having the highest unemployment rate in the state, are they getting fired.
"What they’re doing, we have no idea," McNulty said.
Montefiore officials said they plans to keep the hospital open and employ "qualified workers."
Residents say they will continue fighting to make sure Westchester Square stays the way it is.