Caritas Healthcare announced Friday that two Queens hospitals that have long been in critical condition will be closed within a month. Borough reporter Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
Many had looks of disbelief and some wiped away tears Friday after being notified that Caritas Healthcare, the company operating St John's Queens and Mary Immaculate Hospitals in filed for bankruptcy on Friday. The two hospitals in Elmhurst, Queens are slated to close a month from now.
“Come on, where are we going to go to find a job? We have families, you know what I mean?” said St. John's Queens worker Wilamena Jnbaptisce. “Of course, the patients come first, but we have families to take care of.”
The two hospitals see about 100,000 people in their emergency rooms every year.
“I've been here for over 20 years taking care of people in this community. I'm not sure what they are going to do. I'm not sure what I'm going to do,” said Dr. Evan Schwartz of St. John's Queens.
Several ambulatory care facilities and the Monsignor Fitzpatrick Skilled Nursing Pavilion are also slated to close putting 2,500 employees out of work.
The news comes after weeks of intense protests to keep the hospitals open. Caritas was hoping for a financial rescue through state aid, but the State Department of Health says it has already given Caritas more than $50 million in recent years and cannot give any more.
A Caritas spokesperson said the healthcare system had no other choice but to close its doors, adding, “The [Caritas] board was, much to its dismay, left with no recourse."
The hospitals have been in financial trouble before. In July 2006 as part of the Saint Vincent's Health Network, they filed for bankruptcy but were rescued by Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, which created Caritas to manage them.
Borough President Helen Marshall says she hopes another health network will take the hospitals over.
“One of the guarantees that we have from the state is that anyone who bids for these hospitals will have to be approved by the state DOH,” said Marshall. “Not anybody can just come in here and buy them, and that's pretty reassuring.”
In the meantime, some of the hospital workers are planning a last-ditch attempt to try to convince the state to provide more aid, by rallying in Albany on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, we have no control over the financial situation here, so we are imploring all the people in the surrounding areas to please come and back us and help us keep the hospital open,” said registered nurse Doris Jakuboski.
But such a solution seems less possible with each passing day.