Dr. Steven Safyer, president and CEO of Montefiore Medical Center, stood in the lobby of the newly named Montefiore Westchester Square medical facility – no longer a hospital – greeting staff.
Friday, March 22 was a new beginning for the old Westchester Square Hospital, its assets purchased at bankruptcy auction with state funds by Montefiore and turned into what will now be New York State’s first operational freestanding emergency department, as well an ambulatory surgery facility. Over time, primary and speciality care will be added, but it will not longer be a full-service hospital.
“We are so pleased that we will be able to preserve vital healthcare services and jobs to the community,” said Safyer. “Montefiore is committed to providing forward-thinking care that is not only excellent but well-coordinated and centered around the patient and family.”
About 586 people employed at the old WSMC were laid off, with Montefiore planning to re-hire those it will need either there or at its other facilities.
Questions remain, however, over what might happen if a patient suffers a heart attack, aneurism, or other life-threatening situation that calls for immediate surgery, with no surgical unit at the new facility.
Monetfiore has said ED patients in need of further care, will be stabilized and transported by ambulance to other facilities.
Hospital spokeswoman Mariann Caprino said she does not foresee logistical challenges operating a freestanding ED, with “four sites that are in close proximity.”
“We have board certified doctors in the ED 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week,” said Montefiore vice president Peter Semczuk. “It is the same group that was seeing patients here before. These are well trained, experienced people that know how to take care of sick people.”
A Feb. 27 Time magazine cover story by Steven Brill titled “Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us,” criticized Safyer and other top Montefiore executives for high salaries after Safyer complained about possible cuts to hospital reimbursements in a NY Times story that “there is no such thing as a cut to a provider that isn’t a cut to a beneficiary.”
Brill’s story noted that Montefiore turned a $196.8 million profit on $2.586 billion in revenue, 99.4% of which came from medical bills in 2010, with Safyer being paid $4,065,000, his chief financial officer $3,243,000, an executive vice president $2,220,000, and the head of the dental department $1,798,000.
New care model
A Jan. 8 state Department of Health planning and health council report stated Montefiore’s operation of a “freestanding ED” was a “new model of care” that requires monitoring for “its potential to deliver emergency care in keeping with existing regulatory requirements.”
The report also stated a freestanding ED could drive up health care costs because the public “may perceive it as an urgent care center.”
According to a published report, ED visits are often three times as costly as primary care doctor or urgent care visits.
At least one other freestanding ED is planned at the old St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village in a partnership between North Shore-LIJ Health Care Systems, St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers, and the Rudin family.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393