The closure of hospitals in New York, such as the Lakeshore-TLC Health Center in Irving, could take much longer in the future.
The State Assembly recently passed the Local Community Health Care Contributions Act (A.2251) which would implement a lengthy process once a hospital is announced to be closed. The legislation passed 110-36, with Assemblymen Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voting against.
Accompanying legislation in the state Senate, S.3131, did not leave the Senate Health Committee.
Congresswoman Joann Simon, D-Brooklyn, introduced the bill after Long Island College Hospital, formerly operated by the State University of New York-Downstate, closed. This closure ended up in court for nearly two years, during which a court ruled that current regulations governing hospital closures were “Unconstitutionally vague.”
“I will say that as part of the impact that we weren’t able to assess because we didn’t have adequate information at the time, although we tried very hard and it was led to a dispute, said Simon. “One of the things that was clear, the court found that in fact this was not a process by which New York State had to provide people with the information they needed. Sadly, people died because ambulances couldn’t figure out where the addresses were in local social housing because the addresses were all linked to a yard. Familiarity with the area was really key to providing emergency care and it was really a very difficult situation for our community.
She wrote in her legislative rationale that the legal process made it clear there was no process to determine the health care impact of the hospital’s closure on Cobble Hill and surrounding communities or Brooklyn. Current law, she said, requires a community forum to be held after a hospital closes and does not require the commissioner of the state Department of Health to review health care needs. community, including emergency medical care or transitional care, as part of the Commissioner’s decision to approve the closure of a hospital.
Simon’s legislation adds a new section 2801-i to the state public health law to give explicit authority for hospital closures to the state health commissioner and requires the commissioner to publish a report in 30 days of a request for closure, including what includes the anticipated impact of the closure on access to care for surrounding communities, including the uninsured and underserved; actions the state health department and others have taken or plan to take to mitigate any adverse impacts; recommendations regarding access to health care services in affected communities and why the state cannot financially support it. responsibility of the hospital or identify another operator.
The state health department would also be required to host a community forum to give community members and local elected officials the opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, and offer alternatives, both in person and by written comment. At least 10 days prior to the public hearing, the State will be required to release a copy of a report relating to the proposed closure that includes actions taken by the Department of Health to mitigate any negative impacts of the closure of the hospital, recommendations on accessing health care services in the area, and options for medical services in the area.
“We couldn’t be wrong if we had better information”, said Simon. “With information, we could have determined the continuum of care that retained the billing contract after SUNY arrived. He wasn’t actually sending bills because they didn’t want to send bills because they wanted to close the hospital. It was their main objective was the closure of the hospital. It was the primary goal of the community to keep health care in the community for the people in our community. This legislation would allow that to happen.
Although the state is being asked to give reasons why it can’t take on the financial responsibility of keeping a hospital operating, Goodell said the bill’s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t provide for funding to allow the public process to take place. He said that passing the bill should require a budget line in the state budget.
“It’s a great idea that hospitals give us months and months of notice and that the Ministry of Health takes months and months to review it,” said Goodel. “But there is nothing in this bill that deals with what happens when the hospital runs out of money and can’t pay its employees. There is nothing in this bill that deals with what happens when a hospital is understaffed and cannot provide the level of care that we demand in this Parliament with minimal staff. There is nothing in this bill that deals with the fact that a hospital that goes bankrupt will not continue to get supplies. I applaud the desire to have as much notice as possible. The reality is that if we are serious about providing this process in a timely manner, we have to be serious about providing the state funding that allows it to happen. There is no financial tree growing behind hospitals that they can shake while the state takes its time reviewing a claim.
The closure of the TLC-Lakeshore Health Center in Irving came as a shock even though the hospital had faced financial troubles for six years before it closed in 2019. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 in 2017 after years of deficits and a recommendation from the state’s Berger Commission to close the facility in 2006. The state had supported both TLC-Lakeshore and Brooks Memorial Hospital to the tune of approximately $25 million at the time.
“It’s not just a hypothesis”, said Goodel. “I’ve been through it and I bet a lot of my other colleagues have actually been through it. I had a hospital society, I had two hospitals in my district. And they were forced to close one of the two hospitals, otherwise it would have bankrupted the whole institution. Both hospitals were reportedly closed.