It is now official – Montefiore Westchester Square facility will not have a community advisory board.

Montefiore said that instead, it will hold “community forums,” taking input from the local community board, elected officials, patients, and others.

While the first “forum” is planned for Fall 2013 and should be held periodically, it is not yet clear of how often the forums will take place, said a spokeswoman.

“Because Montefiore Westchester Square is not a stand-alone hospital, we are not required to have a Community Advisory Board,” said Montefiore spokeswoman Brette Peyton.

As for the forums, “The way that we see them working is that we will give an update on progress and plans for the Westchester Square, but we will also open it up and allow people to engage and ask questions and share their points of view.”

Montefiore took over the struggling, bankrupt Westchester Square Medical Center in March, converting it from a full-service hospital with inpatient care to the state’s first freestanding emergency department, as well as ambulatory surgery and outpatient care.

CABs an asset

Sylvia Lask, outgoing chair of the CAB that oversees the North Bronx Healthcare Network’s Jacobi and North Central Bronx hospitals, said the board frequently visits the emergency departments and speaks with personnel there, getting reports on wait times and status of other ED functions on a monthly basis.

One of its great assets, she said, is that it meets monthly with hospital administration answering any questions.

Incoming NBHN CAB chairman Silvio Mazzella said the CAB’s committees, like the ED committee he leads, can conduct investigations.

“It is a link between the hospital and the community,” he said. “And it is a link between people who work there – about their needs. It keeps the community informed and gets input back from the community.”

St. Barnabas Hospital has no CAB, but rather “a Community Service Plan workgroup,” which collaborates with the hospital at the community level on strategy, said a spokesman.

Community Board 10 District Manager Kenneth Kearns said he expects Montefiore to “stick by its guns” on not having the CAB.

“Consumers change the flavor of…deliberations,” Dr. John Santa, director of Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said of community/consumer advisory boards. “But they can make folks uncomfortable.”

Monte shows numbers

Since the takeover, Montefiore has rehired about 300 of WSMC’s 586 staffers, with 250 to full-time positions.

In addition, WSMC doctors now have privileges at Montefiore’s various facilities.

Montefiore said the new Emergency Department, which takes walk-in patients and accommodates ambulances, saw almost 4,500 patients in the first three months of operations.

The changeover raised questions about the logistics of transporting patients who needed higher levels of emergency care to other facilities. But Montefiore said that 250 patients “have been rapidly and seamlessly transferred” since the new facility opened.

Over time, primary and specialty care will be expanded in the facility, with spokeswoman Peyton calling the facility’s integration in the larger Montefiore “seamless.” “We are so pleased the community has embraced Montefiore Westchester Square,” said Dr. Steven Safyer, president and chief executive officer of Montefiore. “Our goal from the very start was to preserve access to the best of healthcare services by providing exceptional care to meet the community’s needs as well as to preserve jobs and support the local economy.”

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